Trump, the Media, the People, and the Party of McKinley

A horrible, terrible, doubleplusungood video taken apart by the good guys at Right Angle

Yep, I struggled through it too, so you don’t have to. It’s at least as bad as they said. But that’s not all that surprising.

HT: Ace. Yep, it’s true, too

Then there is this:

In the new poll, roughly half (51 percent) of Americans said the national political media “is out of touch with everyday Americans,” compared with 28 percent who said it “understand the issues everyday Americans are facing.”

President Donald Trump, a frequent public antagonist of the press and the first president in 36 years to skip the confab, is also slightly more trusted than the national political media. Thirty-seven percent of Americans said they trusted Trump’s White House to tell the truth, while 29 percent opted for the media.

I’d be inclined to say that an 8% advantage when the press has been bloviating (mostly falsely) about him, for a solid year is not really slight, but I suppose your mileage may vary.

Only 38 percent said they have “a lot” or “some” trust in the media covering Trump’s White House fairly, compared with about half (52 percent) who said they didn’t have much or none at all. Almost half (48 percent) also said they thought the media has been harder on Trump than other past presidential administrations. […]

But the media also scored low marks among independents, with more than half saying they didn’t trust national news outlets to cover the White House fairly and that they trusted Trump more. Roughly half (49 percent) also said the media was out of touch and 43 percent said outlets had been harder on Trump than other presidents.

Trump’s critiques of the media, which he commonly derides as “fake news” also seems to have struck a chord with Americans. A plurality (42 percent) said they see fake news in national newspapers or network news broadcasts more than once or about once a day. About 3 in 10 (31 percent) said they saw fake news from those sources once every few days, once a week or slightly less often than that.

Nothing new in any of that. Any of us that are old enough saw it all happen before during Reagan’s term. By the way, my British friends say the same thing with the added fillip that they are required to pay for the BBC if they watch anybody’s television. Ain’t that special? Yeah, essentially, “It’s a tax,” as our Supreme Court might say.

And that brings up something. I’m not really the type of guy that is likely to support Trump. I never cared for him in the private sector, nor in the primary. Did I vote for him? Yep, but that has more to do with Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump. But now, while I think he’s doing a pretty decent job, I’m finding myself defending him more than I normally would, because of all the unwarranted (and often personal) attacks. I doubt I’m the only one. So a lot of what the left is accomplishing is to make sure that Trump will have a second term. For that matter, if the Republicans in Congress don’t get a clue, they make be looking for some of those lovely, lovely lobbyist jobs, even before the 2020 elections.

And this too may be true, from Scott at PowerLine.

My friend Charles Kesler is a learned and a witty man. He is the Dengler-Dykema Distinguished Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College and presides over the Claremont Review of Books as its editor. He puts his his historical knowledge to use in postulating a theory of Trump for readers of the New York Times in — hold on to your hat! — “Donald Trump is a real Republican, and that’s a good thing.” Wait, you can’t say that in the Times without preparing readers for some kind of shock, can you?

What the headline terms a “real Republican” is, on Professor Kesler’s theory, a throwback to “the pre-New Deal, pre-Cold War party of William McKinley and Coolidge, with its roots in the party of Abraham Lincoln.” Professor Kesler explains:

Mr. Trump’s policies suggest that what he calls his “common sense” conservatism harks back to the principles and agenda of the old Republican Party, which reached its peak before the New Deal.

In those days the party stood for protective tariffs, immigration tied to assimilation (or what Theodore Roosevelt called Americanization), judges prepared to strike down state and sometimes federal laws encroaching on constitutional limitations, tax cuts, internal improvements (infrastructure spending, in today’s parlance) and a firm but restrained foreign policy tailored to the defense of the national interest. Are these not the main elements of Trump administration policies?

It’s not that Mr. Trump set out consciously to return the Republican Party to its roots. By temperament and style he’s more attracted to President Andrew Jackson, whose portrait now hangs in the Oval Office. “I’m a fan,” he said after visiting Jackson’s home, the Hermitage, near Nashville, in March. It’s more likely that his own independent reading of our situation led him to similar conclusions and to similar ways of thinking.

That is not a bad theory based on what I have seen in the last few months, and if correct, well I think we can live through that quite handily. Nothing new under the sun, and it worked pretty well back then. After all, that’s how we got the Roaring 20s.

Finally, a Rational Foreign Policy

So, are you having trouble figuring out Trump’s foreign policy? Yeah, it’s different than we are used to. Bookworm had an article the other day, that made a fair amount of sense.

When the Great War (now known as World War I) erupted in 1914, dragging Europe from the pinnacle of civilization into an abyss of mindless killing, President Woodrow Wilson was resolute: America would not enter into this foreign war.

Americans themselves had no desire to be drawn into the war, although the country quickly divided into camps supporting the two sides in the battle. Those supporting England, France, Belgium, and Russia (the Allies) only slightly outnumbered the huge German-American population that put its moral weight behind Germany, Austro-Hungary, and a few other central European nations (the Central Powers).

Traditional American foreign policy there, essentially none of our business, root for the side that you like, and do business with all comers. Book notices and she’s right, the Allies bought an awful lot more stuff than the Germans and bought a lot of it on borrowed American money. It got to the point that the Allies losing would likely have caused a depression in the US. (So did the Allies winning eventually, in 1921, but Coolidge’s policies were so good, that it was a blip, except, maybe for farmers.)

That more than anything else is what forced America into the war, it was decidedly in the American interest for Britain and France to win. It’s not unique in American history, either, the British blockade of Napoleonic France is one of the causes of the War of 1812. In both cases, there were other reasons as well, but these stand out. Don’t forget, we had a little quasi-war with France earlier, again cause by interference in trade. For that matter, if Lincoln hadn’t had a cool head on his shoulders, things like the CSS Alabama could have drawn Britain into the Civil War.

But Wilson wasn’t about to go to war for American trade. Wilson was a lot of things, almost none of them good.

Faced with an unspeakable reason for entering the war, Wilson instead came up with a high-flown moral doctrine justifying America’s entry into the war. And so the Wilson doctrine was born (emphasis mine):

We are glad, now that we see the facts with no veil of false pretence about them, to fight thus for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples, the German peoples included: for the rights of nations great and small and the privilege of men everywhere to choose their way of life and of obedience. The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.

Which is essentially lovely…bullshit. We went into the Great War for perfectly good reasons, but England wasn’t all that much more democratic than Imperial Germany. It became so, of course, but much of that was the result of the war.

Biggest trouble was that Wilson believed it, and because he did, he got shunted aside at the peace conference after the armistice, and very little of his program happened, and what did, was the parts that would lead to trouble, like the Balkans.

And as Book says, almost every war we’ve stumbled into in the last century, except World War II, has been because we have believed this myth, that we were fighting to make ‘the world safe for democracy’. And World War II, itself, was likely caused because of the vindictive treaty that ended the Great War, where Wilson was shunted to the side, even if he was the representative of the most powerful country there. It’s been true, all the way to Iraq II.

Obama held a different belief, almost a mirror image. As near as I can tell he saw his mission to make the world safe from America. He’s a true believer in the revisionist school, that the US (and the UK) have never done anything that was good for anybody but themselves. Well, we’ve disproved that plenty, but that is what they’re still teaching in the schools.

But what is Trump’s principle? I think it’s the traditional 19th-century American foreign policy, updated for the times. He’s not likely to go about regime-changing without really good cause, nor does he believe, I suspect, in the stupid ‘Pottery Barn Rule’. No more Iraqs are likely.

But he’s not afraid to use the military, as we saw in Syria when somebody does something that threatens America. And yes, chemical weapons do threaten America, especially in a country overrun with every sort of Islamic terrorist there is. The same is true for North Korea, threatening to nuke the US, or our allies, is enough to get you in trouble, and Trump doesn’t appear to pull his punches.

The key thing for America, as it is for Britain, as it has been since Good Queen Bess was on the throne, is freedom of the seas. We are trading nations, and these are our highways, and if they keep it up, sooner or later the PRC is going to run afoul of that, but they are smarter than the average bear, so maybe they’ll figure it out. See also my Sea Lines of Communication.

In short, Trump’s foreign policy looks very much like traditional American (and British) foreign policy, not looking for trouble, but it’s unwise to poke lions and eagles, you just might get hurt.

Dana Loesch Takes Aim, Ralph, and Sumdood

Make popcorn, make a lot of popcorn, because the United States’ largest and most effective civil rights group, the NRA has decided to take on that gray purveyor of fake news, the New York Times.

How refreshing!

Then there’s Ralph. One of the blogs I enjoy most is The Adaptive Curmudgeon, perhaps because we are brothers from another mother or something, because he so often corrals what I’m thinking, often better than I do. Such it is with Ralph.

[…] There’s a significant portion of the populace that gets frustrated when President Trump’s (he won folks!) ideas are fed into the bureaucracy and emerge with a treatment somewhere along a spectrum from ignored, through mangled, and into misdirected. There’s another portion that thinks “thank God the system is correcting against lunacy” and applaud a spectrum from moderate, through adapt, and into mitigate. Same actions, different point of view. People’s opinions invert with laser-like speed whenever a new party takes the reins. That’s your big tell. It’s not fully real.

Never forget; one man’s “gridlock” is another man’s “cautious and measured approach”. Furthermore “bipartisan” can mean a “widely agreed upon common sense solution” or it can mean “a stampede of lemmings”. Sometimes it means “witch hunt”. Same activity, different point of view.

This all leads to my reaction to dark utterances about the nefarious “shadow government” or “deep state”. There’s less than meets the eye. If you’re worried about that particular evil, let it go.

Yes, of course, there’s internal resistance to a new president. People don’t like change. I get it. I’m still pissed about automatic transmissions and fuel injected engines. Change is hard. […]

Keep going, this is some of the best stuff, I’ve read in years. How do I know? When the story of a fictional bureaucrat inspires comments that range from Hannah Arendt on Himmler, to Chesterton speaking as the devil, the movie Brazil, read this, and I mean the whole thing well your education is not complete until you have, hit the tip jar too, eloquence should be rewarded. And that brings us to the final thing mentioned in that article, the legend of Sumdood. You really shouldn’t go through life ignorant of one of the largest of American legends.

“So what happened, man?” I ask the guy as I shine a penlight into his eyes, checking his pupillary responses.

“Got hit,” mumbles the guy, stating the obvious. With one hand, he’s holding the absorbent gauze pad I’ve given him against the big laceration on the side of his head, as he absentmindedly tugs his shorts up with the other. Not too far up, mind you – just enough to perch precariously on his ass cheeks and still leave about four inches of boxers showing. Scalp wound and abrasions be damned, he has street fashion to consider.

“I meant, what happened exactly,” I explain patiently, suppressing the urge to roll my eyes. I palpate the back of his neck. “What did they hit you with, and did you get knocked out?”

“Hell no!” he blurts indignantly, pulling away. He starts getting wound up, because now he has a story to tell. He gestures animatedly to the porch behind him, and to his buddies currently being interviewed by the police. There is a small crowd gathered on the street. “See, I was just sittin‘ here, kickin‘ it with my peeps, noamsayne? Mindin‘ my own, noamsayne? And then…”

No doubt there were seven of them, far too many for you and your homies to defeat in a stand-up, fair fight.

“Then, dude just drops the brick and runs off!”

Whoa, just one guy! He must have been a baaaaaaaad ass…

“Did you get a look at this guy?” I ask. “Would you recognize him again?” Immediately, his eyes turn shifty and evasive.

“Nah man, I ain’t ever seen dude before,” he lies. “He just some dude.”

Sumdood?” I ask with sharpened interest. “You say Sumdood jumped you?”

He’s close, I can feel it. I knew it when the hairs stood up on the back of my neck when I got out of the rig. Evil lurks nearby.

“Yeah man,” the guy confirms. “Some dude.”

“There he is, over there!” the guy’s girlfriend says helpfully, pointing toward the crowd, “just standin‘ over there like he ain’t did nuthin‘!”

Shhh, don’t point at him!” I hiss, pulling her arm down. “Just be cool, a’ight?”

Aww girl, that ain’t him,” the guy says, feigning disgust. “Siddown and shut yo mouf.” […]

Take the time, read those links, you need this information.

Ancient Laws, Modern Wars

Victor Davis Hanson reminds us of some ancient learning, and helps us apply it to the present day.

After eight years of withdrawal, what rules should the U.S. follow to effectively reassert itself in world affairs? The most dangerous moments in foreign affairs often come after a major power seeks to reassert its lost deterrence. The United States may be entering just such a perilous transitional period.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/446471/military-deterrence-trumps-leadership-abroad-principles-foreign-policy […]

1. Avoid making verbal threats that are not serious and backed up by force. After eight years of pseudo-red lines, step-over lines, deadlines, and “game changers,” American ultimatums without consequences have no currency and will only invite further aggression.
2. The unlikely is not impossible. Weaker powers can and do start wars. Japan in December 1941 attacked the world’s two largest navies based on the false impression that great powers which sought to avoid war did so because they were weak. That current American military power is overwhelming does not mean delusional nations will always agree that it is so — or that it will be used.
3. Big wars can start from small beginnings. No one thought an obscure Austrian archduke’s assassination in 1914 would lead to some 18 million dead by 1918. Consider any possible military engagement a precursor to far more. Have a backup plan — and another backup plan for the backup plan.
4. Do not confuse tactics with strategy. Successfully shooting down a rogue airplane, blowing up an incoming speedboat, or taking an ISIS-held Syrian city is not the same as finding a way to win and end a war. Strategic victory is time-consuming and usually involves drawing on economic, political, and cultural superiority as well as military success to ensure that a defeated opponent stays defeated — and agrees that further aggression is counterproductive.

via Military Deterrence & Trump’s Leadership Abroad: Principles for Foreign Policy | National Review Read the whole thing.™

There’s more there and they are all true, useful, and important. One that we Americans are very prone to is number four above. It’s always a problem, where is the dividing line. There is a murky area in there as well that some theorists coming after Clausewitz refer to as the ‘operational’. While I see their point, which is valid, these theories are already too complex, so it is best to do our best to maintain a sharp clear line.

If they are doing their job, the TLAM strike in Syria in Syria was strategic. It may or may not deter Hasan, although that is certainly desirable, but it depends on his calculus of survival. If he thinks he is more likely to survive by doing such things, he will. He is, after all, a man of weak morals, caught in a corner. He will do his best to survive, just as Saddam did.

But the point of that strike, which occurred while the President was having dinner with the Chinese Premier, was not Syria. It was Iran and North Korea, and it was notice to their sponsor states, Russia and China, that we were quite unhappy, and that the eagle just might scream in other parts of the world.

It’s important to realize that the United States, while it may be possible to destroy it, it can only be destroyed by what is essentially a nation level suicide-bombing, and only Russia (and maybe China) can do it. America’s only real enemies are internal. And that too has precedent, especially with Rome. Are we there? I don’t think so, but there are troubling signs.

My reading is that the first signs of decline are corruption, venality, and a deterioration of will. I do see these signs in abundance, and we would be wise to check our course. Or maybe we did, and that why we have Trump.

Unpredictability, and Stability

My friend, Dan Miller over A Sclerotic Goes to War notes that

Kim Jong-un has been deemed “crazy” because he is unpredictable. Trump is far from crazy, but can be unpredictable when he wants to be. China does not know what Trump might do about North Korean nukes and missiles, and that is a good thing.

It is, in fact, a very good thing. The article continues

NBC News is reporting that the possible moves include not only assassinating Kim Jong-un, but moving nukes back into South Korea for the first time since the end of the cold war.

The National Security Council has presented President Trump with options to respond to North Korea’s nuclear program — including putting American nukes in South Korea or killing dictator Kim Jong-un, multiple top-ranking intelligence and military officials told NBC News.

Both scenarios are part of an accelerated review of North Korea policy prepared in advance of President Donald Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week.

The White House hopes the Chinese will do more to influence Pyongyang through diplomacy and enhanced sanctions. But if that fails, and North Korea continues its development of nuclear weapons, there are other options on the table that would significantly alter U.S. policy.

Well, that’s a couple of options we wouldn’t have heard in the last eight years, when as that article states Obama’s policy was to, “speak softly and never even pick up the stick”.

According to The Washington Examiner, The Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson said

Chinese President Xi Jinping has agreed to boost cooperation with the U.S. on trying to persuade North Korea to abandon its pursuit of long-range nuclear weapons, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday.

In an off-camera briefing with reporters on the second and final day of President Trump’s summit with his Chinese counterpart, Tillerson said the two leaders recognized the imminent threat North Korea poses and agreed to respond accordingly.

That’s a good thing, as we talked about a bit last week. But you know, I know, even your crazy Aunt Madge knows, the Chinese don’t give any more of a damn about the crazy little man/boy and his Norks than they did last week. What’s changed? Their perception of what Uncle Sam may do about it. Specifically that we might actually do something.

Putting Nukes back in South Korea has to give them nightmares of the same magnitude that the Sovs putting them in Cuba did us a couple of generations ago. China has always wanted buffer areas. That why they came in against us in the Korean War, and they had telegraphed that they would. That is why we didn’t approach their border in Vietnam. It’s also why the western Europeans were so desirous of expanding NATO eastwards.

Where the rubber meets the road for me is that as the superpower sheriff, America must have guidelines. If you do something, and using chemical weapons is one of those things, America will act. But you will not know what America will do, it might call on the UN to sanction you, it might destroy an airfield or two, then again, it might take your country apart, and arrange a meeting with your god for you. You have no need to know what the sheriff will do. You just need to know that he will do something, and so it is in your best interest to not call attention to yourself by doing things that Sheriff Sam has said are not acceptable behavior. If you don’t, he’ll mostly leave you alone.

I also noticed that almost everybody thought that the Syrian strike was a good idea, except the usual suspects.

via Did the Syria strike push China toward action on North Korea? |

And speaking of the usual suspects, the headlines from Iranian FARS News (more or less official) are interesting.

* ‘Emergency’ Protests across US Demand ‘Hands off Syria’

* Swedish Medical Associations Says White Helmets Murdered Kids for Fake Gas Attack Videos

* Syrian Army Chief Visits Airbase Hit by US Missiles before Resumption of Operation

* Anti-War Group Protests against US Strike in Syria

* Russia: US Fails to Prove Existence of Chemical Weapons at Syrian Airfield

* Top Iranian, Russian Security Officials Discuss US Missile Strike on Syria

* Hezbollah Condemns US Blatant, Foolish Attack on Syria

* Russian Ground Force to Take Part in Anti-Terrorism Operation in Syria’s Hama

* Blustering Toward Armageddon: How Trump Is Upsetting China While Antagonizing Russia

* Top Iranian, Russian Security Officials Discuss US Missile Strike on Syria

* Arab Analyst: US Attack against Syria Not to Topple Assad

* Syrian Fighter Jets Restart Combat Flights over Terrorists’ Centers from Shayrat Airbase in Homs

Sounds a bit hysterical to me, and I suspect if they challenge another US vessel in international waters, it will get worse.

Sometimes we can be like Ransom Stoddard and bring our lawbooks, but sometimes we simply have to be Tom Doniphan, using the old ways to advance civilization. The key is doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way. It’s also very helpful to keep the cards close to our chest so that only we know what we are going to do.

Big Stick, Swinging

USS Porter
Photo by: DDG-78

Well, events made me look pretty smart, yesterday, although in the wrong theater. Even as I was writing about taking the North Korean nuclear program apart, the USN was destroying a Syrian air base, that had been used to mount the latest chemical attack on his own civilians. Not surprisingly, I have no problem with that.

It was quite the strike, with upwards of 50 Tomahawk TLAMS launched from the USS Porter, and the USS Ross. The TLAM has about a 1000 lb payload, so it’s a serious weapon. I do read there were problems, and strike results weren’t that good. Mostly because it was necessary to notify Russia, before the strike, and air assets are, by definition, quite mobile. Still, our point was made.

Here’s the video from the Porter.

I do find it interesting that after the last eight years of do-nothingism, the strike was greeted with near unanimous approval, only, Russia, Iran, and Syria objecting. Actually, it’s likely that North Korea does as well, but perhaps it wasn’t the day of the week that the internet is turned on there.

There’s an old saying that a man is known by the enemies he makes. If so, being enemies with the lot mentioned above is hardly the worst thing that could happen to America.

Scott Johnson makes a few points, including that at his press conference with King Abdullah, when asked about the gas attack, the President said this.

It crossed a lot of lines for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line. Many, many lines.

There are a couple of messages in that, one there is a new sheriff in town, who is not amenable to such stuff, and secondly, he may just do something about it. And he did.

Scott also writes this,

[…]

2. Like President Reagan when he fired the striking air traffic controllers in 1981, President Trump sent several messages with the action taken last night. Here are three of them. The Obama era in American foreign policy is over. He doesn’t issue empty threats.

3. President Obama sought to tie the United States down in the world like the Lilliputians did Gulliver. Among the instruments employed by Obama to restrain the United States was the United Nations. President Trump gave the United Nations the opportunity to weigh in yesterday. When it failed to act, Trump proceeded. Again, the Obama era in foreign policy is over.

4. Trump acted with decisive force to achieve a limited objective. He could have gone further to remove more of Assad’s assets. If the goal was limited to deter Assad from doing what he did again, however, I think it highly likely that the mission was accomplished.

Yup.

Mollie Hemingway also wrote about the strike, saying this:

However, there is a national interest case for striking Syria this week that is easier to make than the case for full-fledged war with Syria, which requires much more discussion and for which congressional approval should be sought. Some would argue that congressional approval should have been sought even for the limited strikes, and a representative case was made here in 2013 when the issue last flared.

That Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used sarin gas against civilians is significant in multiple ways. Yes, al-Assad has been brutally killing people for years, but the use of chemical weapons is a violation of a treaty Syria has signed, and a violation of a norm that Americans have an interest in upholding.

I agree with her, the strike is fully justified, as a repeat would be. Ground operations may be, but they should be only considered after consulting Congress, and the people. Too many times have we gone off on operations without a clear idea of what our objectives are, let alone what a victory looks like. Even for the United States, military hardware, and especially our people are limited in number and should be husbanded, not expended in sideshows.

All in all, and exemplary operation. BZ to all hands.

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