Tuesday ReadsPosted: April 25, 2017
This is Trump’s last week before he hits the 100 day mark and things are getting weird. I can’t tell if he’s planning to start a war or if this is all just bluster to distract from the fact that he has accomplished so little.
Trump held a lunch meeting with representatives of the UN Security yesterday, and he didn’t invite anyone from the State Department. You can read his remarks at the White House press office website. During the meeting, he “joked” that he could easily replace Nikki Haley as UN Ambassador if he wanted to. On Wednesday, Trump has asked the entire US Senate to meet at the White House for a secret briefing on North Korea. On Friday in New York Secretary of State Tillerson will chair a UN Security Council meeting on North Korea. And of course you’ve heard that Trump will hold one of his weird campaign rallies instead of going to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday night. Meanwhile, a US submarine is lurking in South Korea waiting for the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and its “armada” of warships to arrive; and North Korea is ramping up their military exercises.
Some pertinent reads:
Foreign Policy via The Chicago Tribune: Trump breaks bread with UN dignitaries he sought to starve.
From day one, the TrumpWhite House screamed its desire to emasculate the United Nations, pushing for draconian budget cuts that would kneecap the world body and ease Washington’s retreat from multilateralism.
Yet President Donald Trump’s U.N. envoy, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, has turned Turtle Bay into one of the administration’s favored soapboxes, providing an unexpected boost to the organization the White House set out to marginalize.
In her first months on the job, Haley has used the U.N. as a perch to deliver some of the administration’s most visceral attacks against Russia, Syria and North Korea. It was Haley who delivered the first hint that the U.S. would use military force to punish the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad for using chemical weapons.
There is no reason to think Trump is ready to fully embrace an institution he derided before his inauguration as an ineffectual talk shop. The president blithely bypassed the U.N. Security Council when it launched Tomahawk missiles at Syria, seeing little need to secure the U.N.’s blessing and shrugging off claims that missile strikes constituted a violation of international law.
Haley is attracting lots of press attention but hasn’t really accomplished much.
Haley has made the U.N. “the center of attention” but she has not made it the “center of action”- at least not on the diplomatic front, said Richard Atwood, the New York director of the International Crisis Group.
One senior European diplomat said that Haley’s office – handicapped by a shortage of senior and mid-level policy makers in the State Department and in New York – often lacks the bandwidth to delve deeply into a range of issues before the U.N.
“I worry that U.N. watchers are dazzled by Haley, but miss the fact that Trump still seems intent on undercutting” key pillars of the multilateral system, said Richard Gowan, a U.N. scholar at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Articles like the one above might be the reason Trump “joked” about firing Haley.
The Washington Post reports:
If there’s one member of President Trump’s team who has been a wild card early in his presidency, it’s Nikki Haley. The United Nations ambassador has been a surprisingly strong presence, often making news about U.S. foreign policy in ways that seem somewhat, well, un-Trump.
On Monday, Trump joked about firing her — quickly clarifying that she’s doing a “fantastic job.”
“She’s doing a good job. Now does everybody like Nikki?” Trump asked at a meeting of U.N. Security Council ambassadors and their spouses. “Otherwise she could easily be replaced. Right?”
Trump added: “No, we won’t do that. I promise. She’s doing a fantastic job.”
Is Trump jealous of the attention Haley has been getting?
Trump is reputed to be wary of aides getting too much publicity and overshadowing him.
Russia and Syria are perhaps the best examples of Haley’s message getting out in front of the White House’s. After the chemical weapons attack in Syria, Haley went to the United Nations on April 5 and held up photos of the children who were targeted. The next day, Trump himself said such images had affected him and changed his viewpoint, and he launched military strikes against the Syrian government the day after that.
Haley has also been more forward when talking about regime change in Syria, even as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has emphasized that defeating the Islamic State is Goal No. 1.
And indeed, as Tillerson has sought to avoid the media, Haley seems to be filling the void and making news — sometimes with a more hawkish bent than the rest of the Trump administration. Vanity Fair has mused about whether Haley could find herself at odds with the State Department.
Newsweek: Donald Trump Calls for New United Nations Sanctions on North Korea.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday the U.N. Security Council must be prepared to impose new sanctions on North Korea as concerns mount that it may test a sixth nuclear bomb as early as Tuesday.
“The status quo in North Korea is also unacceptable,” Trump told a meeting with the 15 U.N. Security Council ambassadors, including China and Russia, at the White House. “The council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”
“This is a real threat to the world, whether we want to talk about it or not. North Korea is a big world problem and it’s a problem that we have to finally solve,” he said. “People put blindfolds on for decades and now it’s time to solve the problem.”
U.S. officials have told Reuters tougher sanctions could include an oil embargo, banning North Korea’s airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese banks and other foreign doing busiThenness with Pyongyang.
The Guardian: North Korea won’t bow to Donald Trump’s threats. It needs assurances, by Lawrence Douglas. Douglas describes what happened when Muammar Gaddafi tried to “turn Libya into a nuclear stronghold.”
Thanks largely to the diplomacy of the Clinton and Bush administrations, Gaddafi voluntarily abandoned his nuclear weapons. The diplomatic effort required both forcefulness and great delicacy. While imposing crippling economic sanctions on Libya, the United States also pursued back-channel negotiations to convince Gaddafi that the sanctions would be lifted in exchange for his giving up on his nuclear ambitions.
The quid pro quo and the promise of future cooperation could not work without forging bonds of trust between two distrustful and antagonistic parties. And yet the diplomacy succeeded. Gaddafi dropped the weapons program and the sanctions were promptly lifted.
Then came the Arab Spring, NATO got involved in Libya, and before long Gaddafi was dead. Kim Jong-un doesn’t want the same thing to happen to him, Lawrence says.
All this means that the chance of negotiating a peaceful end to North Korea’s weapons program is vanishingly small. Alas, Donald Trump seems intent on destroying whatever chance might remain. As Bill Clinton understood, the only possible path to peaceful disarmament is by building trust where there is only suspicion and hostility. This requires patience and planning. Trump appears incapable of either.
Trump evidently believes that a show of toughness and a display of brinkmanship will convince Kim Jong Il to negotiate. The thinking betrays a disturbing ignorance. The threat of force can only work to deter a nation from developing nuclear weapons. Once that threshold has been crossed, the threat is worse than empty. It can serve only to strengthen the North Koreans in their belief in the indispensability of their warheads.
Worse still, Trump seems temperamentally incapable of strategic thinking. When he openly confesses that he only learned of the complexity of the Chinese-North Korean relationship after being briefly tutored by Xi Jinping, China’s president, he does more than reveal an embarrassing lack of preparation. He sends a powerful message to America’s adversaries.
It is much the same message that is sent when a commander-in-chief misplaces a carrier group, cannot correctly name the country he has just struck with missiles, and launches his most vociferous verbal volleys against allies such as Australia and now Canada while expressing squeaky admiration of strongmen like Erdogan.
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All In The Family
In other news, Trump family members are getting a lot of press. You may have already read the delicious profile of Melania that Vanity Fair published a few days ago: Inside the Trump Marriage: Melania’s Burden. Here’s a taste:
After two high-maintenance wives, Donald Trump seems deliberately to have chosen as his third a woman who would be both bombshell and cipher, a physical testament to his manhood and amazingness. She would be decorative and polite, not needy and annoying. “I’m not a nagging wife,” Melania has declared a couple of times—her manifesto. According to some of Trump’s friends and associates, she has stuck to it.
“She enjoys her role of stepping back and letting him take center stage,” says decorator friend William Eubanks, who spent Thanksgiving with the Trumps at Mar-a-Lago, along with romance-novel-cover model Fabio and boxing promoter Don King. According to Lisa Bytner, who did P.R. for Trump Model Management when it was launched in 1999, and became a friend of the couple’s, Trump found in Melania the perfect mate. “She doesn’t make waves,” says Bytner. “She speaks only when spoken to. She’s just very sweet.” Except, in public, when called upon to defend her husband’s demeaning attitudes toward women, or to be a mouthpiece for some of his offensive claims, such as birtherism.
And yet, woefully pliant as Melania may be, even she may have a breaking point. Over the course of reporting this story, for which her close friends declined to talk, an uneasy picture has emerged of their marital union. Melania’s unhappiness and the couple’s apparent lack of closeness are becoming more noticeable. Despite assurances from her spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, that Melania is embracing the role of First Lady, most signs point to a distinct lack of interest. And while Grisham says Mrs. Trump plans to move to the White House once their son, Barron, “finishes out the school year,” there have been indications that she is in no particular rush.
Read the rest at the link–it’s fascinating.
You’re not alone if you think you are living through an Allen Drury novel—or, depending upon your age, Dr. Strangelove or Wag the Dog. Sean Spicer, the poor fellow, is living through his own episode of South Park. In the B.T. (Before Trump) era, most people I know went about their daily lives reasonably confident in the knowledge that the papers or news sites they read that morning were all they needed to stay informed for the rest of the day. But now, A.T., all that has changed. Those same people check their phones with the regularity of lovelorn teenagers—wincing as they look to see what fresh horrors the great man in the White House has unleashed. Trump may thrive on conflict and disorder, but most of us do not.
Read the whole thing at Vanity Fair.
At Huffington Post: The Guide To Becoming Jared Kushner.
When Charles Kushner was heading to federal prison in 2005 for illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering, his son Jared got some advice from Howard Rubenstein ― the dean of New York damage control ― on how to rehabilitate the Kushner name, Charles would later tell a family friend.
Step one: Buy a New York newspaper. Don’t be too particular, Rubenstein told Jared, according to the family friend’s recounting of their conversation with Charles. Any newspaper will do. Step two: Buy a big Manhattan building. Any building will do. Step three: Marry the daughter of a rich New York family. Anyone will do.
The younger Kushner went on to do just that. He bought the New York Observer in 2006, made a debt-laden $1.8 billion purchase of 666 Fifth Ave. in 2007 and married Ivanka Trump in 2009. (A Kushner Companies spokesman denied the family friend’s account. Rubenstein said: “That’s preposterous. I never said that or anything like that.”)
Finally, the “First Daughter” went to Germany and heard boos and hisses when she tried to claim that her dad cares about women’s issues. New York Magazine:
Ivanka Trump came to Berlin prepared to discuss how micro-finance can #empower female entrepreneurs in the Third World to lean into innovation, and lean out of poverty. (Or so a snarky blogger might uncharitably summarize her recent op-ed in the Financial Times.) But moments after taking her place beside German chancellor Angela Merkel and IMF managing director Christine Lagarde on a panel at the W20 summit, Trump found herself discussing her own motives for being there.
“You’re the First Daughter of the United States, and you’re also an assistant to the president,” the panel’s moderator, Wirtschaftswoche editor-in-chief Miriam Meckel, began. “The German audience is not that familiar with the concept of a First Daughter. I’d like to ask you, what is your role, and who are you representing, your father as president of the United States, the American people, or your business?”….
Trump could not say precisely what her new job as a senior White House official entailed, but defined her goals as “empowering women in the workplace” and achieving “incremental positive change.”
The largely female crowd was willing to politely entertain Trump’s attempt to rebrand herself as a feminist crusader. But when Ivanka tried to rebrand her father as the same, the audience’s patience gave out.
“I’m very proud of my father’s advocacy,” she said of the president’s official (but, so far, entirely passive) support for paid family leave, before calling her father “a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive.”
Boos and hisses ensued.
What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great Tuesday despite the insanity that surrounds us.