Thursday, February 09, 2017

What Do America's Allies Think Of Trump And #PresidentBannon?


Trump may not be making any of America's enemies nervous, but he's certainly been making our closest friends and allies anixious, from his crackpot phone calls to the leaders of Mexico and Australia to his Putin-loving agenda in Europe. (I hope you watched the national late night TV shows that have been lampooning him ever since Holland got the ball rolling a few weeks ago.) This week, Germany's biggest weekly news magazine, Der Spiegel, garnered a lot of attention for an OpEd by Klaus Brinkbäumer, Trump as Nero: Europe Must Defend Itself Against A Dangerous President. Trump, he points out is "is becoming a danger to the world [and] it's time for Germany and Europe to prepare their political and economic defenses."
Germany must stand up in opposition to the 45th president of the United States and his government. That's difficult enough already for two reasons: Because it is from the Americans that we obtained our liberal democracy in the first place; and because it is unclear how the brute and choleric man on the other side will react to diplomatic pressure. The fact that opposition to the American government can only succeed when mounted together with Asian and African partners-- and no doubt with our partners in Europe, with the EU-- doesn't make the situation any easier.

...It is literally painful to write this sentence, but the president of the United States is a pathological liar. The president of the U.S. is a racist (it also hurts to write this). He is attempting a coup from the top; he wants to establish an illiberal democracy, or worse; he wants to undermine the balance of power. He fired an acting attorney general who held a differing opinion from his own and accused her of "betrayal." This is the vocabulary used by Nero, the emperor and destroyer of Rome. It is the way tyrants think.

Donald Trump and his fire-starter Stephen Bannon discriminate against certain people by decree, but not against those from countries in which Trump does business. The contempt the president of the United States and his most important adviser have for science and education is so blatant that it's almost difficult to write. But their disdain for climate and environmental policies has to be stated, because four or eight years of it could become a serious threat.

...This is not a threat that will somehow resolve itself. The German economy has become the target of American trade policy and German democracy is ideologically antithetical to Trump's vision. But even here, in the middle of Germany, right-wing extremists are trying to give him a helping hand. It is high time that we stand up for what is important: democracy, freedom, the West and its alliances.

This does not mean escalation or that we must abandon our contacts with America and all the working groups between our governments. What is does mean, though, is that Europe must grow stronger and start planning its political and economic defenses. Against America's dangerous president.
The next day, Spiegel was back to elucidate on the charges that Trump and Bannon are creating an autocracy in America, the former hewing closely to the ideas of the former, "making Stephen Bannon the most dangerous man in America."

Bannon gets a lot of blame for Trumpy-the-Clown policies. "Those hoping to understand what the world might currently be up against," wrote Spiegel, "should know how Stephen Bannon thinks. A corpulent man with a full head of hair at age 62, his gaze is clear and alert and he often pinches his mouth together until his lips become invisible, not unlike a street fighter. Now that he works in the White House, he has begun wearing a suit coat. Previously, though, he was fond of showing his disdain for refined Washington by wearing baggy cargo pants through the streets of the capital, shaggy and unshaven." Spiegel described Trump's White House as some kind of a snake pit with everyone fighting everyone-- "a chaotic place, but also one with a clear mission: that of radically transforming the United States. These aren't Republicans, they are Trumpists. And they aren't conservatives, they are nationalists. Bannon is their ideologue. He may be the smartest, but he is surely also the most dangerous."
In November 2013, the historian Ronald Radosh visited multimillionaire Bannon in his townhouse, located in Capitol Hill. The two stood in front of a photo of Bannon's daughter Maureen, an elite soldier with a machine gun in her lap posing on what had once been Saddam Hussein's gold throne. At the time, Bannon was the head of the right-wing propaganda website Breitbart and the two were discussing his political goals. Then Bannon proudly proclaimed, "I'm a Leninist."

The historian reacted with shock, asking him what he meant. "Lenin," he answered, "wanted to destroy the state, and that's my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today's establishment." By that, he meant the Democratic Party, the media, but also the Republicans.

Radosh wrote about the encounter in a piece for the news website The Daily Beast and soon thereafter, once close confidants to Bannon came out of the woodwork to share what they knew about his world view. "Steve is a strong militarist, he's in love with war -- it's almost poetry to him," his longtime Hollywood writing partner Julia Jones told the website. She said books about war lay all over the place in his home. "He's studied it down through the ages, from Greece, through Rome ... every battle, every war. Never back down, never apologize, never show weakness. He lives in a world where it's always high noon at the O.K. Corral."

...Last Monday, Donald Trump promoted Bannon once again. The ex-Breitbart editor had started as his campaign manager before becoming Trump's chief political strategist in the White House. Now, though, Bannon has also been named a permanent member of the National Security Council. "That's the worst thing that has ever happened," says one former Bannon confidant. In addition to other aspects of national security, the group, one of the government's most important, also addresses matters pertaining to war and peace.

Just months ago, Bannon predicted: "We're going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years. There's no doubt about that." Against China, a nuclear power. Bannon has also claimed that another war will also flare up, this one in the Middle East.

Bannon's appointment to the National Security Council was one of many radical decisions made in recent days that will change America and the rest of the world. And most of the decisions can be traced back to Bannon himself.

Since Jan. 20, Trump and Bannon have together mounted an attack against the institutions of democracy. Surrounding by a tiny circle of confidants, Trump has started a revolution. The aim is to make America great again, as it once was, when there were more borders, women were obedient and the country was strong and feared-- at least as Bannon sees it.

This new old America has taken shape in an alarmingly clear way during the past two weeks. The contours of the presidency are clearer and the methods more visible. Trump is neither seeking to promote his initiatives nor is he trying to persuade people of his political course. Rather, he is governing by decree and ruling like an autocrat. In doing so, he is driving America further apart. New trenches are being dug and there's more to the battle taking shape than a clash of cultures. It's not fake news, alternative facts or Trumpian lies that are at the center in the next round of the battle-- it's about policy action and stark nationalism.

President Trump is acting exactly as Bannon had hoped. Now that he's in power, he is playing the role of the destroyer. The dignity of the office of president means little to him and he began eroding it from the first day with his petty tweets and boorish behavior. Surrounded by his tiny circle of close advisors, he began hatching one presidential decree after the other, including orders to build a wall along the border to Mexico and an entry ban for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries. The decisions provoked angry protests in the United States and around the world. It has also darkened the world's view of America.

...There is a great deal at stake. His presidency raises questions about the resilience of American democracy and its institutions and over how far a man can go who will test the Constitutional limits of the powers of the president. And whether America, the model of democracy, is susceptible to the new authoritarianism of the 21st century.

In this battle, Bannon-- a man so far out on the right-wing fringe that even the Republican establishment thought he was a whacko-- is the decisive puller of strings behind Trump. Following the election, there were many who sought comfort in the idea that Vice President Mike Pence might lead from behind the scenes and that things might not turn out so badly after all. Now it is clear that those people badly deceived themselves. The chief ideologist within the White House right now is Stephen Bannon and his power far exceeds that of official Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, a traditionalist Republican. "Impeach President Bannon!" read the signs held up by some protestors last week in New York and Washington.

Bannon's surge in power is also disconcerting because his presence in the legendary Situation Room blurs a long-held tradition in U.S. politics separating political strategists, who are mostly watching poll data, from those whose jobs are mostly related to security policy and whose primary concern is the lives and deaths of U.S. soldiers. Trump's predecessor in office sought to avoid the appearance that profound decisions made by the National Security Council could be influenced by domestic policy considerations.

With one signature, Trump did away with this dividing line. And as if that weren't enough, he removed two experts from full membership on the council at the same time: the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

...Conservative writer David Frum, George W. Bush's former speech writer, warned in an essay for The Atlantic that Trump could transform the U.S. into an autocracy but that the model would be more like Viktor Orbán in Hungary than Adolf Hitler. Hungary does still have free elections, but they are "not quite fair." He wrote that "Hungary is ceasing to be a free country" and that the transition "has been nonviolent, often not even very dramatic."

Members of the opposition there aren't murdered, but they are neutralized, he wrote. Supporters become rich and opponents remain poor. President Trump might also appoint yes-men and yes-women and neutralize critics, especially at the highest levels of government. He could also continue to grow richer as a result of his office, particularly given that he is, as Frum wrote, "poised to mingle business and government with an audacity and on a scale more reminiscent of a leader in a post-Soviet republic than anything ever before seen in the United States." Trump hates the press, he twists the truth, Frum wrote. "Those citizens who fantasize about defying tyranny from within fortified compounds have never understood how liberty is actually threatened in a modern bureaucratic state," he wrote. "Not by diktat and violence, but by the slow, demoralizing process of corruption and deceit."

What people like to call "illiberal democracy" is making a comeback in many parts of the world. The idea represents an authoritarian democracy in which the leader is more or less freely elected, but in which people's basic civil rights are curtailed, transition of power is made more difficult, freedom of expression and the press come under pressure, minorities lose their equal protection and the division of power is either partially or entirely eliminated.

It's a phenomenon that has been seen Russia and Turkey, but also in Latin American nations like Venezuela. There, former President Hugo Chávez using ruling techniques one could also imagine with Trump. On his weekly TV show, he would fire government ministers who didn't meet his demands on live television, provide homes to poor families as gifts and rail against his political opponents with insults.

But is it really possible that the West's liberal democracies could be infected by such forms of rule? Political scientist Shadi Hamid, who has studied Islamist movements and illiberal democracies in the Middle East, sees parallels between Trump's ethnic-nationalist voters and supporters of the Islamist parties in Tunisia and Egypt. There, too, people of mostly modest means who do not share liberal values, have periodically brought a new type of politician to power through the popular vote.

The destructive energy of the Trump movement could prove to be a great test for America, a country where liberal powers are so well organized that they won't give up without a fight. Eric Schneiderman, attorney general of the state of New York, is one of many to have sounded the warning bells, saying that Trump "does not have respect for the rule of the law." The country, Schneiderman said, is facing "a crisis over whether the Constitution is respected or not."

...For Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, the U.S. president has become one of the greatest risks to Europe's future, joining China, Russia, radical Islam, war and terrorism. The new administration, he recently wrote, is "seeming to put into question the last 70 years of American foreign policy."

Even worse, Trump is getting support from right-wing populists across the entire continent. Hungary's autocrat Viktor Orbán and Poland's strongman Jaroslaw Kaczynski were largely fringe figures before Trump's election, but not anymore. Trump's election, says Orbán, is a "great gift," adding after Trump's inaugural address that "we have received permission from, if you like, the highest position in the world so we can now also put ourselves in first place."

Trump's people have nothing but disdain for international organizations, they hate multilateral agreements-- and they are likely to destroy the deal that could be the most fateful for the future of humanity. Until recently, that destruction was the responsibility of Myron Ebell, 64, who was in charge of environmental issues on Trump's transition team. During the weeks between Trump's election and the inauguration, Ebell sought to minimize and sideline the Environmental Protection Agency. He believes that climate change is fictitious and said in January that the environmental movement is "the greatest threat to freedom and prosperity in the modern world." He says that climate scientists, who "benefit from advancement in their careers and larger government grants," have joined together to form a "climate-industrial complex."

Ebell has battled the EPA in court for years and now wants to see the agency downsized from its current 15,000 employees to just 5,000. Trump has nominated Scott Pruitt to run the rump agency. He too is a pronounced skeptic of global warming.

Will the U.S. now pull out of the Paris climate agreement as Trump promised on the campaign trail? At the end of January, Republicans introduced a bill that would ban all U.S. contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Green Climate Fund. With the GOP enjoying a majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the bill could soon land on Trump's desk.

Withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement could take longer, but it's not impossible. Many can't imagine that the U.S. government under Trump's leadership will honor the country's commitments to limiting climate change. But without the U.S., the Paris deal is unlikely to work. With that Trump would make good on a threat he made on Twitter in early 2014: "This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop."

Nobody is currently in a position to stop the president. The Democrats lost the White House in the November elections and the Republicans control both houses of Congress.
Of course, it is imperative for the Democrats-- as flawed as they are-- to regain control of the House in 2018, something that is not just doable, but even likely. Here's good place to start supporting that effort:
Goal Thermometer

Labels: , , , ,


At 2:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah. Another useful to know aspect of the cluster fuck.

The Europeans (and others notably in asia) are not blind and stupid like American voters. They see what's going on.

But even they failed to see the vector we've been on. The Spanish judge that wanted to issue an ex parte indictment of cheney et al for torture on Vienna Accords grounds was brow-beaten from his proper effort by obamanation and his cabal of enablers and continuers.

Since obamanation refused to investigate the cheney admin (even as they boasted about it), it became a legal obligation for all signatories of the accords to act in enforcement of them. The only balls anywhere in the world belong(ed) to the Spanish judge who began that process. But under threat of obamanation, he stopped.

Just wondering here... but what if Der Spiegel had written a similar-toned evisceration of obamanation warning that if that piece of shit didn't enforce US law, then we'd be continuing down the path that leads to hitler, Goebbels and Heydrich (the germans, of anyone, would know this).

So the Germans aren't blind nor stupid... but they sure aren't prescient.

Americans ARE willfully blind and stupid and racist and evil. It would be good if the Europeans took that into account from now on.

At 2:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would add that the state dept, headed by $hillbillary, was the blunt instrument that browbeat the Spanish judge.

At 4:43 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

Great article.

Yes, Obama continues to bear a large part of the responsibility for all that has happened. He should have gone after Bush, Cheney et al., and Wall Street. He also supported all of the wire tapping, etc., and let the communications companies off of the hook (retroactively!) against our freedoms. He erred in many other ways as well. Howie always said Obama was not a progressive and would be disappointing, and he was sure right on that score.

The "middle of the road" Democrats, aka Republicans lite, who have been in control of the party for many years, have allowed this horror. They have been blinded by their own power and greed. Their complacency has assisted in the destruction of much of the Democratic party - they lost sight of the central theme that the Party is meant to represent the people and not the rich and the corporations. The Democratic Party must turn progressive, a la Bernie, and rouse up all those who did not vote to get to the polls. This is our only chance at stopping this world wide disaster with Trump and his crew at the helm. Forget about changing over Republicans, a waste of time. American voters are are only hope - let's get a lot more of them out there in support of GOOD candidates. Let's cross our fingers that the American people will stand up and fight.

At 5:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hone, excellent comment. However, imo, unrealistic. Democraps may start to TALK progressive again, but the money that owns them won't ever allow them to BE progressive.

Look at all the fascist corporatist neolib candidates that the DCCC actually drafted, supported and ran. Most of them lost. Look at all the (winning) progressive candidates that the DCCC shunned.

Look at the senate Ds allowing cloture and even voting FOR the new Reichstag even though they could all vote nay on everyone and it wouldn't matter.

Look at even the waffling, cowardly rhetoric coming from the leadershit.

These people will never change. Billions of dollars per cycle will keep them bought.

At 1:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the Germans aren't blind nor stupid, they'll ban bannon from entry to their country due to his unabashed jew hating. Drumpf too, if they're smart.

If they do this, watch der fuhrer tweet something like "fat pig" about Merkel. He's that big a douchenozzle.

Can we start a petition to make this happen?


Post a Comment

<< Home