Archive

February 18th, 2017

The Struggle Inside The Wall Street Journal

    The most successful modern publisher of ideological journalism is Rupert Murdoch. He buys media properties, or starts new ones, and turns them into conservative megaphones.

    In England, he carefully nudged the venerable Times to the right, while his tabloids mocked Labour Party politicians as weaklings or Stalinists. In the United States, he transformed the once-liberal New York Post into a peppery conservative tabloid and then built Fox News from scratch.

    Clearly, he enjoys both populist and elite media. And in 2007, he bought a journalistic jewel, The Wall Street Journal.

    Now The Journal’s newsroom is embroiled in a fight over the paper’s direction.

    Many staff members believe that the paper’s top editor, Gerard Baker, previously a feisty conservative commentator, is trying to Murdoch-ize the paper. “There is a systemic issue,” one reporter told me. The dissatisfaction went public last week, with stories in Politico and the Huffington Post. At a staff meeting on Monday, Baker dismissed the criticism as “fake news,” Joe Pompeo of Politico reported.

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Memo to Trump: Iraq is too big to fail

    The first few weeks of Donald Trump's presidency have been a political roller coaster for Iraq.

    On Jan. 21, the newly minted commander in chief raised his oft-repeated mantra that the United States might have offset the costs of the Iraq War by somehow seizing Iraqi oil. Six days later, he signed an executive order banning Iraqi nationals from entering the United States for 90 days and Iraqi refugees from entering for 120 days. The banned persons initially included thousands of translators and other Iraqis who risked their lives by serving alongside U.S. troops in Iraq.

    Though Iraq's parliament issued a nonbinding call to retaliate by banning American visitors, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi chose to take the high road. Refusing to bow to domestic political pressure, he ruled out a reciprocal travel ban in a speech on Jan. 31.

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Imagining a successful Trump presidency

    Imagine a successful Trump presidency.

    That is the assignment I gave myself this week as I met with research fellows at the Hoover Institution, a free-market think tank located here on Stanford University's campus, and with Stanford professors. Set aside the initial stumbles and Washington angst, and imagine how Donald Trump might build on his unexpected electoral victory.

    I was taken aback by the first response.

    "Well, it's sad," a conservative expert on politics replied when I asked the question. "Because he could have done something groundbreaking."

    Could have? Past tense? Already?

    Yes, this person replied. Trump took office with a unique opportunity to triangulate between the two parties. With Republicans he could have enacted tax reform and rolled back regulations. With Democrats he could have pushed through a giant infrastructure bill, dividing the Democratic coalition (trade unions from teachers unions, Midwesterners from coastal elites). Presto: a new working coalition.

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The Power of Disruption

    The Trump resistance movement is stretching its wings, engaging its muscles and feeling its power. It is large and strong and tough. It has moved past debilitating grief and into righteous anger, assiduous organization and pressing activism.

    Welcome to the dawn of the fighting-mad majority: The ones who didn’t vote for Trump and maybe even some who now regret that they did.

    They are charging forward under the banner of sage wisdom that has endured through the ages: Show up, get loud and fight back. Do it with your body and words, with your time and money, with every fiber of yourself. They see what this dawning regime means and they don’t intend, not even for a second, to wait around to see what happens. “What happens” is happening right now and it’s horrific.

    Donald Trump is a vulgar, uninformed, anti-intellectual, extremely unpopular grifter helming a family of grifters who apparently intend to milk their moment on the mount for every red cent.

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President Trump just escalated his war with the intelligence community - bigly

    President Donald Trump's latest round of early morning tweets Thursday go well beyond the usual bluster about his opponents. He is now basically calling for the use of the government's investigative machinery to be turned loose on them.

    Trump tweeted angrily about the leakers who have disclosed to the press that intelligence officials have determined that there were contacts between Russia and Trump campaign officials during the past year. Trump was also presumably referring to leakers who revealed that the Justice Department warned that former national security adviser Michael Flynn communicated inappropriately with the Russian ambassador, making him vulnerable to blackmail. Trump tweeted:

    The spotlight has finally been put on the low-life leakers! They will be caught!

    Leaking, and even illegal classified leaking, has been a big problem in Washington for years. Failing @nytimes (and others) must apologize!

 

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Face Trump's unfitness sooner, not later

    Let's not mumble or whisper about the central issue facing our country: What is this democratic nation to do when the man serving as president of the United States plainly has no business being president of the United States?

    The Michael Flynn fiasco was the entirely predictable product of the indiscipline, deceit, incompetence and moral indifference that characterize Donald Trump's approach to leadership.

     Even worse, Trump's loyalties are now in doubt. Questions about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russia will not go away, even if congressional Republicans try to slow-walk a transparent investigation into what ties Trump has with Putin's Russia -- and who on his campaign did what, and when, with Russian intelligence officials and diplomats.

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Wheels coming off the Trump steamroller

    The resignation under fire of President Trump's national security adviser, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, has capped the first weeks of perhaps the most chaotic rollout of an American presidency in history.

    It comes on the heels of the judicial branch's rejection on constitutional grounds of Trump's bid to suspend immigration by refugees and entry into the United States by people from seven designated Muslim countries. His actions already have stirred unprecedentedly early and widespread street protests in cities and towns across the country and abroad.

    Flynn was forced to step down explicitly for having lied to Vice President Michael Pence, denying he had discussed the fate of sanctions against Russia in an FBI-recorded conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak before Trump took office.

    The discussion came in the context of then-President Barack Obama's order to expel Russian intelligence officials from the United States in response to interference with the American presidential election.

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What Did Trump Know, and When Did He Know It?

    During the Watergate scandal, until now the most outrageous political scandal in American history, the crucial question was drawled by Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”

    Today the question is the same.

    This is not about Mike Flynn. It is about the president who appointed him, who earlier considered Flynn for vice president. The latest revelation of frequent contacts between the Trump team and Russian intelligence should be a wake-up call to Republicans as well as Democrats.

    When Vice President Mike Pence was asked by Chris Wallace of Fox News on Jan. 15 if there had been any contacts between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, he answered: “Of course not. Why would there be any contacts?”

    Great question, Mr. Vice President.

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Well, Trump Watchers, Things Could Be Worse

    I know a lot of you were saying in December that this administration wouldn’t last a month. But I’ll bet you didn’t actually have “worry about collapse of the government” written down on your schedule for February.

    Americans who went into a state of shock after the election are now floating in new, hitherto-uncharted realms of worry. We’ve learned that Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, talked with the Russians before the inauguration. And, sources told The New York Times, other Trump associates also talked with Russian intelligence officers during the campaign.

    What about Trump himself? Any chance that he encouraged Flynn to chat with the Russian ambassador about policy before he was president? Wouldn’t that be, um, super-illegal?

    Wow. If you thought a successful President Trump was the worst possible scenario, imagine an egomaniac who feels threatened with being a “loser,” back to the wall. In the interest of public tranquillity we will not dwell on the nuclear codes in his office.

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Trump Administration's Actions Reads Like A Bad Spy Novel

    If the late, great Donald Westlake had written spy thrillers instead of crime capers, they'd read a lot like the opening weeks of the Trump administration. My favorite Westlake novel is "Bank Shot," in which a gang conspires to steal a temporary bank building by towing it off with a truck, only to confront the reality -- oops! -- that Long Island is indeed an island, and they can't haul the thing to the upstate boondocks without encountering police roadblocks.

    That's when things get complicated.

    Well, things have suddenly gotten complicated for the Trump White House and its timid enablers among congressional Republicans.

    Let's put it this way: The simplest explanation that fits the facts could be that President Trump encouraged national security adviser Michael Flynn to sweet-talk the Russian ambassador about U.S. sanctions imposed by President Obama for interfering in our presidential election, and then urged him to brazen it out when word of their improper conversations leaked to the press.

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