Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Trump Doctrine


Photo
President Trump at the White House on Tuesday. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
Well, it took almost a year, but we now have the “Trump Doctrine.” It’s very simple. And, as you’d expect, it fits neatly into a tweet. On nearly every major issue, President Trump’s position is: “Obama built it. I broke it. You fix it.”
And that cuts right to the core of what is the most frightening thing about the Trump presidency. It’s not the president’s juvenile tweeting or all the aides who’ve been pushed out of his clown car at high speed or his industrial-strength lying.
It’s Trump’s willingness to unravel so many longstanding policies and institutions at once — from Nafta to Obamacare to the global climate accord to the domestic clean power initiative to the Pacific trade deal to the Iran nuclear deal — without any real preparation either on the day before or for the morning after.
Indeed, Trump has made most of his climate, health, energy and economic decisions without consulting any scientists, without inviting into the White House a broad range of experts, without putting forth his own clear-cut alternatives to the systems he’s unraveling, without having at the ready a team of aides or a political coalition able to implement any alternatives and without a strategic framework that connects all of his dots.
In short, we’re simply supposed to take the president’s word that this or that deal “is the worst deal ever” — backed up by no serious argument or plan about how he will produce a better one.
Continue reading the main story
I’m open to improving any of these accords or institutions. I’m even open to the possibility that by just tipping over all these accords at once, and throwing away his steering wheel, Trump will get people to improve the Iran deal or Obamacare out of sheer panic at the chaos that might ensue if they don’t.
But I am equally open to the possibility that unraveling all of these big systems at once — health, energy, geopolitics — without a clear plan or a capable team will set in motion chain reactions, some of them long term, that Trump has not thought through in the least. Moreover, when you break big systems, which, albeit imperfectly, have stabilized regions, environments or industries for decades, it can be very difficult to restore them.
Question: We’re told by our secretary of state that he’s been engaged in some secret contacts with North Korea, exploring the possibility of a diplomatic solution that might dramatically reduce North Korea’s nuclear arsenal in return for U.S. promises of regime security. If, at the same time, Trump unilaterally pulls out of the deal we’ve already signed with Iran to prevent it from developing nukes — and Trump moves to reimpose sanctions — how does that not send only one message to the North Koreans: No deal with the U.S. is worth the paper it’s written on, so you’d be wise to hold on to all your nukes?
Question: Iran controls tens of thousands of Shiite militiamen in Iraq and Syria who were our tacit allies in defeating ISIS. Tehran also has huge influence over Iraq’s government and over certain regions of Afghanistan as well. Can we stabilize Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan — post-ISIS — and keep our troop presence low and safe, without Iran’s help — and will that help be coming after Trump rips up the nuclear deal? If you think so, please raise your hand.
And since our European allies as well as Russia and China have indicated that they will not follow us in backing out of the Iran deal or reimposing sanctions, Iran would have all the moral high ground and money it needs, and the U.S. would be isolated. Are we going to sanction E.U. banks if they deal with Iran?
Trump came into office vowing to end the trade imbalance with China — a worthy goal. And what was his first move? To tear up the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal that would have put the U.S. at the helm of a 12-nation trading bloc built around U.S. interests and values, potentially eliminating some 18,000 tariffs on U.S. goods and controlling 40 percent of global G.D.P. And China was not in the group. That’s called leverage.
Trump just ripped up the TPP to “satisfy the base” and is now left begging China for trade crumbs, with little leverage. And because he needs China’s help in dealing with North Korea, he has even less leverage on trade.
Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord and, at the same time, restricted U.S. government funding for birth control both at home and abroad. Question: What is driving so many immigrants and refugees in Africa, the Middle East and Central America to try to get out of their world of disorder and into America and Europe and the world order?
Answer: It is a cocktail of climate change, environmental degradation, population explosions and misgovernance in these countries. So Trump’s policy is to throw away every tool we have to mitigate climate change and population growth and try to build a wall instead, while also trying to bully Mexico’s unpopular president into trade concessions, which could help elect a radical populist in next year’s Mexican election — a successor who would be anti-American — and destabilize its economy as well.
At a time when China has decided to go full-bore into clean tech and electric cars, at a time when all of the tech giants are building data centers that they want powered by clean energy, at a time when solar and wind power are growing increasingly competitive with fossil fuels (and America still has a technological lead in many of these areas), at a time when climate change may be stimulating bigger hurricanes and forest fires that are costing us hundreds of billions of dollars, Trump’s central energy initiative is to reverse Obama’s and bring back coal-fired power.
None of these dots connect. And we will pay for that. “Whiplash” was a great movie. But it’s a terrible organizing principle for our foreign or domestic policy.

Fisk on Hitler in The Independent

The lady came down the corridor with a big smile and gave us the key to Hitler’s room. It was an old brass key – I’m sure he had flunkies to open the door for him – but it was the original all right, and when we pushed open that door, there it was, all wooden panelling, wooden floors and there was the marble mantelpiece I had seen so many times in those familiar newsreels.

For this wasn’t just Hitler’s party office – the Fuehrerhaus in Koenigsplatz. This was the room where they signed the Munich agreement in 1938, this was where we – in the shape of Chamberlain and Halifax – and the French (Daladier) and the Italians (Mussolini, of course, and Count Ciano) signed away the Czechs. The films show Hitler sitting at his own desk in front of the marble fireplace, gobbling up the Sudetenland – he would consume all of Czechoslovakia the following year. My friend is elderly, a Sudeten German among the minority Germans living in Czechoslovakia, who was forced to flee his own home as a child at the end of the war. “And this is where the war started,” he said. “Here they started the Second World War – and signed away my own home.”

He still travels to his home town of what was Carlsbad – today Karlovy Vary – and he pays someone to look after the family graves. No one at the end of the war felt much sympathy for the Sudeten Germans. Hitler had used Sudeten Nazis to demand independence from the Czechs – that was the deal at Munich. And this is still the room forever associated with the word “Appeasement”. It’s actually a rather droll room, dark, heavy panelling, dull, tall windows, a 1930s monster building, the doors and windows far taller than a man or woman. It lacks imagination. I can think of a few other modern day fuehrers who might feel at home here. It’s part of a music school and theatre now – after the war, it was for some years an American cultural centre – and there is no mention of the man whose party headquarters this was. I asked a few Muncheners if they knew who used to work here.

Yes, they knew. I slipped out to the balcony (where I was not supposed to walk). Yes, he stood here – but the eagle over the balcony in the photographs has long gone. So, mercifully, have the shrines to Nazi “martyrs” that stood beside this building – it was blown up after the war; the wild bushes that still grow on the site speak of guilt and war crimes and a titanic race war. But the great marble staircase that led to Hitler’s room is still intact, a power staircase, all fake classical steps in keeping with the portentousness of the building. Up here Hitler walked. It’s not curiosity I feel, but a sense of foreboding. We betrayed the Czechs and ensured that Czech Jews would go to the extermination camps. The fact that the Israeli consulate has been constructed right behind the old Nazi offices is somehow fitting. Even more so because at right angles to it is a modern museum where you can watch, over and over again, the original newsreels of the Munich agreement.

There is Chamberlain arriving at Munich airport, inspecting a Nazi guard of honour, and there’s an odd moment at the end of this footage when he slightly lifts his hat in salute to the German soldiers around him. He was happy. He would declare peace in our time. And then I see him walking up the staircase I’ve just climbed myself and there is Daladier and Halifax and Mussolini. Giant flags – British and French – hung down the front of the Fuehrerhaus.

And there’s another clip of film which shows Goering with a broad smile on his face, standing next to Hitler, rubbing his hands together in sheer delight that Chamberlain and Daladier would not call Hitler’s bluff. Hitler would reportedly call them “worms” – after they’d left, of course.


It’s worth remembering this museum – and that room – now that the right has returned to Germany’s political life. Interviewed on television after their victory, one of the AfD leaders referred to immigrants – he meant Muslims, of course – as “strange people with strange values from strange countries”. And I remembered that old Chamberlain quotation again, speaking of Czechoslovakia as “a faraway country of which we know nothing”. I don’t suppose Chamberlain hated the Czechs, but he certainly felt contempt for them. They were not invited to the Munich conference. And there’s a narrow divide between hatred and contempt (although right now Trump might be able to say that everywhere apart from the United States is a faraway country of which he knows nothing). The agreement was signed in the early hours of the morning on 30 September 1938. A J P Taylor described Hitler as an “opportunist” at Munich. Ian Kershaw says that Hitler felt cheated – he wanted war. Within months, Hitler had broken the Agreement and occupied the whole country, and we did nothing about it. There had been some light-hearted banter at Munich. The Czech delegation waiting outside to know their fate noticed that Chamberlain kept yawning. An incipient opposition to Hitler within the Wehrmacht was cut short – at least temporarily – because the Western democracies would give Hitler what he wanted without war.  Churchill got it right when he urged the democracies to bring Stalin in on their side. But Chamberlain had little interest in allying himself with the Soviets.


Anyway, they were not invited to Munich. And Stalin would make his deal with Hitler before the German invasion of Poland that started the real war. But in 1945, the Soviet army would reach Berlin before the British and French. I guess that Chamberlain will always have to be regarded as an ignominious man. Arrogance is what you see in the film of him, self-importance, a man who must have felt at home walking up that marble staircase. My German friend Horst says he cannot understand why the democracies let Hitler get away with it. And I’ve noticed how “appeasement” is still trotted out and thrown at anyone who opposes war – war in Afghanistan, war in Iraq, war in Libya. Hitler’s former party headquarters is not haunted by ghosts, as the old cliché goes about such places. Chamberlain’s legacy in that room remains with us still, a tool for proving that war is necessary.

The Independent

Sexual Harassment

After visiting Hitler’s office in Munich, it’s clear to me that there are still lessons to be learned












15

Click to follow
Independent Voices

The lady came down the corridor with a big smile and gave us the key to Hitler’s room. It was an old brass key – I’m sure he had flunkies to open the door for him – but it was the original all right, and when we pushed open that door, there it was, all wooden panelling, wooden floors and there was the marble mantelpiece I had seen so many times in those familiar newsreels.
For this wasn’t just Hitler’s party office – the Fuehrerhaus in Koenigsplatz. This was the room where they signed the Munich agreement in 1938, this was where we – in the shape of Chamberlain and Halifax – and the French (Daladier) and the Italians (Mussolini, of course, and Count Ciano) signed away the Czechs.
The films show Hitler sitting at his own desk in front of the marble fireplace, gobbling up the Sudetenland – he would consume all of Czechoslovakia the following year. My friend is elderly, a Sudeten German among the minority Germans living in Czechoslovakia, who was forced to flee his own home as a child at the end of the war. “And this is where the war started,” he said. “Here they started the Second World War – and signed away my own home.”

He still travels to his home town of what was Carlsbad – today Karlovy Vary – and he pays someone to look after the family graves. No one at the end of the war felt much sympathy for the Sudeten Germans. Hitler had used Sudeten Nazis to demand independence from the Czechs – that was the deal at Munich. And this is still the room forever associated with the word “Appeasement”. It’s actually a rather droll room, dark, heavy panelling, dull, tall windows, a 1930s monster building, the doors and windows far taller than a man or woman. It lacks imagination. I can think of a few other modern day fuehrers who might feel at home here.
It’s part of a music school and theatre now – after the war, it was for some years an American cultural centre – and there is no mention of the man whose party headquarters this was. I asked a few Muncheners if they knew who used to work here. Yes, they knew. I slipped out to the balcony (where I was not supposed to walk). Yes, he stood here – but the eagle over the balcony in the photographs has long gone. So, mercifully, have the shrines to Nazi “martyrs” that stood beside this building – it was blown up after the war; the wild bushes that still grow on the site speak of guilt and war crimes and a titanic race war.
But the great marble staircase that led to Hitler’s room is still intact, a power staircase, all fake classical steps in keeping with the portentousness of the building. Up here Hitler walked.






over again, the original newsreels of the Munich agreement.
There is Chamberlain arriving at Mu

nich airport, inspecting a Nazi guard


It’s not curiosity I feel, but a sense of foreboding. We betrayed the Czechs and ensured that Czech Jews would go to the extermination camps. The fact that the Israeli consulate has been constructed right behind the old Nazi offices is somehow fitting. Even more so because at right angles to it is a modern museum where you can watch, over and over again, the original newsreels of the Munich agreement.
There is Chamberlain arriving at Munich airport, inspecting a Nazi guard of honour, and there’s an odd moment at the end of this footage when he slightly lifts his hat in salute to the German soldiers around him. He was happy. He would declare peace in our time. And then I see him walking up the staircase I’ve just climbed myself and there is Daladier and Halifax and Mussolini. Giant flags – British and French – hung down the front of the Fuehrerhaus.
And there’s another clip of film which shows Goering with a broad smile on his face, standing next to Hitler, rubbing his hands together in sheer delight that Chamberlain and Daladier would not call Hitler’s bluff. Hitler would reportedly call them “worms” – after they’d left, of course.







And there’s another clip of film which shows Goering with a broad smile on his face, standing next to Hitler, rubbing his hands together in sheer delight that Chamberlain and Daladier would not call Hitler’s bluff. Hitler would reportedly call them “worms” – after they’d left, of course.

It’s worth remembering this museum – and that room – now that the right has returned to Germany’s political life. Interviewed on television after their victory, one of the AfD leaders referred to immigrants – he meant Muslims, of course – as “strange people with strange values from strange countries”. And I remembered that old Chamberlain quotation again, speaking of Czechoslovakia as “a faraway country of which we know nothing”. I don’t suppose Chamberlain hated the Czechs, but he certainly felt contempt for them. They were not invited to the Munich conference. And there’s a narrow divide between hatred and contempt (although right now Trump might be able to say that everywhere apart from the United States is a faraway country of which he knows nothing).
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Ukip's Neil Hamilton: Michel Barnier's negotiations like Adolf Hitler
The agreement was signed in the early hours of the morning on 30 September 1938. A J P Taylor described Hitler as an “opportunist” at Munich. Ian Kershaw says that Hitler felt cheated – he wanted war. Within months, Hitler had broken the Agreement and occupied the whole country, and we did nothing about it. There had been some light-hearted banter at Munich. The Czech delegation waiting outside to know their fate noticed that Chamberlain kept yawning. An incipient opposition to Hitler within the Wehrmacht was cut short – at least temporarily – because the Western democracies would give Hitler what he wanted



The agreement was signed in the early hours of the morning on 30 September 1938. A J P Taylor described Hitler as an “opportunist” at Munich. Ian Kershaw says that Hitler felt cheated – he wanted war. Within months, Hitler had broken the Agreement and occupied the whole country, and we did nothing about it. There had been some light-hearted banter at Munich. The Czech delegation waiting outside to know their fate noticed that Chamberlain kept yawning. An incipient opposition to Hitler within the Wehrmacht was cut short – at least temporarily – because the Western democracies would give Hitler what he wanted without war. Churchill got it right when he urged the democracies to bring Stalin in on their side. But Chamberlain had little interest in allying himself with the Soviets. Anyway, they were not invited to Munich. And Stalin would make his deal with Hitler before the German invasion of Poland that started the real war. But in 1945, the Soviet army would reach Berlin before the British and French.
I guess that Chamberlain will always have to be regarded as an ignominious man. Arrogance is what you see in the film of him, self-importance, a man who must have felt at home walking up that marble staircase. My German friend Horst says he cannot understand why the democracies let Hitler get away with it. And I’ve noticed how “appeasement” is still trotted out and thrown at anyone who opposes war – war in Afghanistan, war in Iraq, war in Libya. Hitler’s former party headquarters is not haunted by ghosts, as the old cliché goes about such places. Chamberlain’s legacy in that room remains with us still, a tool for proving that war is necessary.

The G.O.P. Is No Party for Honest Men










Photo

President Trump and Mitch McConnell speaking to reporters on Monday. Credit Tom Brenner/The New York Times

According to a new CBS News poll, almost 60 percent of the American public believes that the current Republican tax plan favors the wealthy. Some people see this number as a sign that the plan is in trouble; I see it as a sign that Republican lies are working far better than they deserve to.

For the plan does indeed favor the wealthy — overwhelmingly, undeniably. It’s shocking that as many as 40 percent of Americans don’t realize this.

It’s not difficult to see how the plan is tilted toward the very top. The main elements of the plan are a cut in top individual tax rates; a cut in corporate taxes; an end to the estate tax; and the creation of a big new loophole that will allow wealthy individuals to pretend that they are small businesses, and get a preferential tax rate. All of these overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy, mainly the top 1 percent.

There are also some measures affecting middle-class families, but they’re relatively small change — and some of them would actually raise taxes. Over all, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that by 2027 almost 80 percent of the gains from the plan would go to the top 1 percent, just 12 percent of the gains to the middle 60 percent of Americans — and that more than a quarter of middle-class families would actually see their taxes go up.
So the question about this plan isn’t whether it favors the wealthy — it does, to an outrageous extent. The questions we should be asking instead are why Republicans are pushing this so hard, and how they can hope to get away with it.


Bear in mind that there is essentially no popular constituency demanding tax cuts for the rich. By a large margin, the general public wants to see taxes on corporations and the wealthy go up, not down; even Republicans are divided, with only a modest margin in favor of cuts.

Yet tax cuts for the rich are the overriding objective of the modern G.O.P. They were the principal motivation for the attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, since that would also mean repealing the high-income taxes that pay for it; from Republicans’ point of view, depriving millions of health care was just a minor side benefit. And now tax cuts for the wealthy are pretty much the only thing left on the G.O.P.’s legislative agenda.

In fact, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the hope for tax cuts is the main thing keeping congressional Republicans in line behind Donald Trump. They know he’s unfit for office, and many worry about his mental stability. But they’ll back him as long as they think he might get those tax cuts through.

So what’s behind this priority? Follow the money. Big donors are furious at missing out on the $700 billion in tax cuts that were supposed to come out of Obamacare repeal. If they don’t get big bucks out of tax “reform,” they might close their pocketbooks for the 2018 midterm elections.

Beyond that, modern conservatism is a sort of ecosystem of media outlets, think tanks, lobbying outfits and more that offers many lucrative niches — so-called wingnut welfare — for the ideologically reliable. And that means being reliable to the interests of the wealthy.

But how can an administration that pretends to be populist, to stand up for ordinary (white) working people, sell such elitist policies?

The answer is a strategy based entirely on lies. And I mean entirely: The Trump administration and its allies are lying about every aspect of their tax plan.
I’m not talking about dubious interpretations of evidence or misleading presentation of the facts — the kind of thing the Bush administration used to specialize in. I’m talking about flat-out, easily refuted lies, like the claim that America has the world’s highest taxes (among rich countries, we have close to the lowest), or the claim that estate taxes are a huge burden on small business (almost no small businesses pay any estate tax).

Nor do I mean that there are just one or two big lies. There are many — so many I literally don’t have space to so much as list them in this column. In a long blog post this past weekend I tried to provide a systematic list; I came up with 10 major Republican lies about tax cuts, and I’m sure I missed a few.

So, politically, can they really get away with this? A lot depends on how the news media handles it. If an administration spokesperson declares that up is down, will news reports simply say “so-and-so says up is down, but Democrats disagree,” or will they also report that up is not, in fact, down? I wish I were confident about the answer to that question.

One thing we know for sure, however, is that a great majority of Republican politicians know perfectly well that their party is lying about its tax plan — and every even halfway competent economist aligned with the party definitely understands what’s going on.

What this means is that everyone who goes along with this plan, or even remains silent in the face of the campaign of mass dissimulation, is complicit — is in effect an accomplice to the most dishonest political selling job in American history.



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