Archive for March, 2020

During his three plus years in office, Donald Trump has waged an unrelenting war on the existing non-physical American infrastructure.  This has proven, under today’s realities, to not be to America’s advantage.  It is far more favorable to Russia since their primary goal is to see America seriously weakened.  Thanks to the Coronavirus and overall Trump policy, America is weakening by the minute, medically, economically and politically!

Trump has either made or proposed changes in all of the following areas: Social Security, food stamps, Obamacare, Medicaid, national parks, the Clean Water Act, tobacco law, DACA, school lunch programs, Medicare, taxes, NAFTA, the VA, education funding, the 2019, 2020 and 2021 budgets, the national debt, national environmental policy, national regulatory policy, health care, energy, criminal justice reforms, presidential pardons, the infrastructure and Immigration.  In the process, he has removed many of the legislative and other mandated barriers that keep the unscrupulous from exploiting their fellow Americans.

Additionally, he has been intent on remaking the Federal judiciary.  According to the Economist, in a little over three years, Trump has nominated and won Senate confirmation for 192 federal judges, including 137 district-court judges, 51 appellate judges and two Supreme Court justices. No president since at least Ronald Reagan has racked up judicial appointments so quickly (the closest was Bill Clinton with 189 at this point in his presidency).  By the end of the year, on current trends, a quarter of federal judges will be Trump’s appointees.

Mitch McConnell deserves much of the credit. The Senate majority leader and presidential handmaiden has made confirming the president’s judicial nominees his “top priority”. He has not let Senate norms and institutions get in his way. To speed up the process, Republicans have scheduled confirmation hearings during Senate recesses, and packed several hearings into a single day, over objections from their Democratic colleagues. They have also done away with a century-old tradition giving senators the power to block judicial nominees from their home states.

In addition, McConnell has reportedly been reaching out to senior conservative judges, urging them to consider retiring so they can be replaced while the White House and Senate are still in Republican hands.

What all of this means is that the American judiciary will be held in the grip of conservative judges who are appointed for life, creating an intractable situation for decades for any American who disagrees with them politically.

His focus on “America First” foreign policy has been equally broad and equally destructive.  Consider his position on Israel/Palestine, his withdrawal from or denigration of international organizations and treaties (NAFTA, Iran, the European Union, NATO, the TPP, the Paris Climate Accord, The UN Human Rights Council), his war on the State Department and on the US Intelligence Community, travel bans on diverse countries and populations, his trade wars with Brazil, Argentina and China and his apparent preference for despots (Putin, Duterte, Kim Jong Un, Erdogan, Abdel Fattah el Sisi, Xi Jinping, the Saudi Royals) over those who support democracies, are just some of the examples of the changes he has wrought in our relationships with other nations.

It is a simple fact that we are no longer viewed favorably around the world.  We no longer have the influence in foreign affairs that we had before Trump.  Of course, if you are an isolationist, an America Firster, a Russian or simply a xenophobe, you will applaud his moves in this arena.  If, on the other hand, you see value in positive relations with foreign governments or are concerned about the anti-democratic behavior of others, his attitudes will not please you.  In short, Trump would appear to be promoting and following policies that are not supported by a hefty chunk of the American people.  On the other hand, curiously, those policies would appear to be in line with the goals of the Russian leadership to weaken their American rival.

And what of Coronavirus?  The Washington Post has reported that Trump has overlooked or rejected intelligence on this matter for months.  Nothing is working!  The Russians must be absolutely delighted!  Trump has missed every opportunity since January to step up and do something – testing, the Defense Production Act, Personal Protective Equipment – anything – that would get us at least even and maybe ahead in the battle with Coronavirus.  Yet he has done nothing that has really worked for America – maybe for Russia – but not for America. Does he realize what he is doing?

Haviland Smith is a retired CIA station chief who spent his career during the Cold War working on the Soviet Union. 

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By Haviland Smith

February  4, 2020

If you look carefully and objectively at the world today, you may be able to perceive that we are approaching a crossroad. Some will even say that we are already in it. And just what is that? The people of this nation and the world are faced at this moment with a decision on what they want for the future. Do we want to continue our own fragile democracy as well as supporting other democratic movements abroad, or are we in the process of giving up on that and seeing the world sink into nationalism and populism?

Much is made of the post-World War II period and the Cold War when the two main competing ideologies were democracy and communism. Some saw it as horribly dangerous, particularly as they watched the hostile, nuclear armed competitors trying to manipulate uncommitted countries to their sides. And it probably was, but our worst fears were never realized. We and the Soviets somehow blundered through without major conflict.

What the Cold War provided to the world was relative security. There always seemed to be one or more superpowers present when things got really dangerous. Those superpowers tended to avoid their own conflicts and to suppress those of their so-called allies. In the Middle East, for example, despite the fact that the Sunni-Shia split had existed since the seventh century, it did not turn into today’s bitter armed conflicts until the end of the 20th century, as the Cold War became history.

Further, since the end of the Cold War, much of the world has seemed to approve globalism, which is the idea that freedom and human rights can be made available to all mankind. Proponents believe that the problems of humanity can best be resolved with democratic globalism.

What you can say about life under globalization is that it is likely to be less violent than life under populism which is a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups. This is largely because globalization has tended to bring with it an increased respect among nations for the needs and goals of other countries, where populism and nationalism recognize the desires of individual countries and their citizens above those of the rest of the world.

Was it working? Perhaps, but what has happened is that elements around the world, both on the political right and left, have turned toward nationalism and populism. And this is not a phenomenon limited to the third world; it includes countries that until very recently have appeared to support global democratization, countries like Poland, Hungary, Brazil and the Philippines, to name only a few.  Some observers think it extends to North America and the British Isles as well. How else do you explain Brexit or America’s inclination to turn past friends and supporters into reluctant allies and critics?

President Trump has introduced us to what looks like the coming new political wave. He has identified, won over and is now supporting and supported by those 30 million Americans who really have not benefited from our interest in and support of globalization. It is very clear from the ongoing political scene that they will support him in just about anything he wants to do. In effect, Trump is a strong opponent of globalization and even stronger supporter of nationalism and populism. He has overturned many of the existing policies of past American governments and essentially told the world that the only thing that matters to him (and to America) is whether or not any given issue favors America.

You can’t really say that Trump’s positions on these issues have actually directly caused other nations to follow his policies, but his policies and positions have created an environment in which it is easier for that to happen. Trump openly supports some of the worst, least democratic world leaders. This is true of Egypt, North Korea, the Philippines, Russia, China, Egypt, Turkey, Brazil, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Libya and India, to name a few. He appears to love and respect authoritarian leaders who oppose or crush all opposition to their leadership. He has even gone so far as to praise some of the policies of Saddam Hussein and Benito Mussolini! What does that tell us about him and his hopes and goals for the future?

It is clear that millions of Americans have been short-changed under leaders pursuing globalization and that Trump represents a desirable alternative to them.  The problem, quite simply, is that even if that is true, Trump’s seeming preoccupation with authoritarian world leaders, their philosophies and policies and his inclination to emulate them pose a grave threat to our perpetually vulnerable democracy.

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