Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: November 30, 2019 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, U.S. Politics 14 Comments
For the first time in ages, we are actually having a somewhat slow news day. The biggest news where I am is the coming snowstorm that could drop as much as a foot of white stuff in Massachusetts. What a shock to the system!
In Democratic primary news, Elizabeth Warren is finally getting the Kamala Harris treatment, although it’s not quite as bad as Harris gets. After all, Warren is white. But the media wants a center right nominee and they will work hard to get one.
A few days ago, Warren dropped 14 points (50%) in the Quinnipiac poll and Phillip Bump somewhat sheepishly asked: What happened to Elizabeth Warren?
This is one of those headlines that, in a few months, staffers for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) may screenshot and embed in fundraising emails: Remember when they wrote us off? It’s an admittedly loaded question, asking what happened to one candidate in a remarkably fluid Democratic primary field. We reiterate this point over and over that the field is fluid and voters aren’t set in their preferences, so, of course, candidates will rise and fall as a result.
That defensive hand-wringing aside, it’s still the case that something happened to Warren. In early October, she was surging in the polls, rising in RealClearPolitics’ average of polls to match (and even briefly surpass) former vice president Joe Biden. At the time, we noted a recent history of people surging into ties — and then fading away. (Ben Carson in the 2016 Republican contest, for example.) That’s exactly what happened to Warren: a peak and then a fade.
Polling from Quinnipiac University released Tuesday allows us to look a little more closely at how Warren’s fortunes have fared. In that poll, Warren slipped from a clear first at the end of October to a tie for third with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Biden regained his lead, but South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg climbed into second. (Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California, who surged after the first Democratic debate, continues to poll in the single digits.)
Bump looks at the “demographic shifts” in the poll.
Two things stand out pretty clearly in many of those charts: Warren’s drop and Buttigieg’s increase. Among “very liberal” respondents, both Biden and Buttigieg appear to have gained at Warren’s expense. Her support among moderates, once respectable, collapsed entirely. It’s worth noting that the shift against Warren came after significant focus on her approach to Medicare-for-all — which Quinnipiac suggests has relatively low support among Democratic moderates.
Oddly, Warren has dropped in both over-65 and younger voter support; the older voters shifted to Buttigieg and younger voters to Biden. Weird.
Today’s WaPo has a policy-oriented analysis: How a fight over health care entangled Elizabeth Warren — and reshaped the Democratic presidential race.
In mid-November, a few dozen of the country’s most influential advocates of Medicare-for-all were reviewing details of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plan to finance the proposed government-run program when they learned that she had unexpectedly changed her position.
Warren (D-Mass.), who had excited liberals when she initially embraced a Medicare-for-all idea first proposed by rival presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), was suggesting a more centrist idea: to delay enactment of the single-payer system and, in the interim, give consumers the choice to opt in. The change might have seemed insignificant to most Americans, but to many in the suburban Washington conference room, Warren’s new stance marked an abrupt retreat, according to several people in attendance.
That moment highlighted the political turbulence that Warren has experienced in recent weeks as she has attempted to extricate herself from a policy dilemma that has blunted her steady rise to the top ranks of the Democratic nominating contest….
“As [Medicare-for-all] got more attention, more and more people began to say, ‘Yeah, that’s a mistake [that] she showed flexibility,’ ” said former congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts. “But I guess she felt she couldn’t make herself totally vulnerable to the Sanders people by abandoning [Medicare-for-all] altogether.”
“It would have been better to do it earlier,” Frank said of her shift, adding that he had privately told her that backing the Sanders plan was “a terrible mistake.”
I’ve wondered all along if Warren’s political inexperience would come back to haunt her. Unlike other Democratic candidates, she has little history with the Democratic Party, having been a registered Republican until 1997. Unlike Hillary Clinton, she has no long-term history of support for civil rights issues. She was apparently torn between her need to win over Sanders voters and her dawning recognition that “Medicare for all” would ultimately be a loser among moderate and swing voters.
Recent polling suggests Warren has sustained political damage from her health-care policy. After climbing to the top of the field by focusing on a message of overhauling Washington and Wall Street, Warren plateaued as her campaign became consumed with health care.
Now, she is falling.
Nationally, Warren has dropped from a high of about 27 percent in October’s RealClearPolitics’ average of polls to near 16 percent at the end of November. In Iowa, she has dropped about five points in that same period, and in New Hampshire, her support has been cut in half, according to the calculation. Warren’s decline has coincided with the rise of a new entrant into the top tier: South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has backed a more moderate health-care agenda and accused Warren of failing to make clear how she would pay for her plan.
There’s much more analysis at the link. I think Warren is still in a strong position, but some of the bloom is definitely off the rose. It’s still early, of course.
Meanwhile, New Hampshire voters, who have to deal with endless political ads and phone calls during primary season are sick and tired of Tom Steyer. Politico: New Hampshire voters to Steyer: Make it stop!
Some Granite staters said they’re seeing Steyer’s ads dozens of times a day — and it’s become more grating than ingratiating. A POLITICO reporter who watched YouTube music videos this week by Pentatonix, a popular a capella group, endured 17 Steyer ads in just over an hour.
Even some of Steyer’s local staff privately acknowledge the volume of ads has gone overboard.
Steyer has massively outspent other Democratic candidates on social media in an effort to gain traction in polls and ensure he makes the debate stage. But the recoiling of some New Hampshire voters suggests there are limits to the strategy — Michael Bloomberg beware. Indeed, some residents feel like they can’t touch a piece of technology without seeing his face.
“There is a point of no return in terms of visibility,” said Scott Spradling, a New Hampshire media analyst. “At some point, you become the uninvited guest. He uniquely is becoming dangerously close.”
Read on to see the mind-boggling amounts of money Steyer has been dropping on ads in NH and nationally. He has even outspent Trump! And for what? Imagine what he could be doing to help a serious candidate but he’d rather waste his millions on his own vanity campaign.
Trump went to Afghanistan on Thanksgiving and falsely claimed a cease-fire was imminent: Trump’s talk of Afghanistan cease-fire appears to surprise the Taliban, Afghan government.
Declaring that the U.S.-Taliban talks he abruptly canceled in September are back in motion, Trump said during a Thanksgiving Day visit to troops in Afghanistan that the Taliban “wants to make a deal. And we’re meeting with them, and we’re saying it has to be a cease-fire.”
“They didn’t want to do a cease-fire, but now they do want to do a cease-fire,” Trump said of the militants. “It will probably work out that way. . . . We’ve made tremendous progress,” he added.
But on Friday neither the Taliban nor the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani indicated that a cease-fire was near, or even being discussed in resumed U.S. negotiations.
At the time the U.S.-Taliban talks ended, the two sides were preparing to sign a draft agreement that called for a reduction in violence. But it specifically declared that any discussion of a cease-fire was to be left to follow-on negotiations between the militants and the government in Kabul.
In a statement, the Taliban said that remains its understanding. “We are ready to talk, but we have the same stance to resume the talks from where it was suspended,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Post.
Read more at the WaPo link.
At The Atlantic, Peter Nichols has an interesting and disturbing piece on Trump’s obsession with conspiracy theories: Trump Needs Conspiracy Theories.
A product of tabloid culture, Trump has long trafficked in conspiracy theories. But as chief executive, he’s used the machinery of government to give the ones especially useful to him the stamp of official validation. (That’s the main reason he now faces impeachment in the House.) These baseless theories are a way for Trump to explain away his problems and undercut opponents. Beyond that, though, they seem to serve distinct emotional needs, feeding a narcissistic ego that cold reality won’t satisfy. His efforts to persuade the public to go along with these self-protective myths have already corroded democratic institutions. The wreckage from that destructive legacy won’t be easily repaired after he leaves the stage.
“We’ve never had a president who trades in conspiracy theories, who prefers lies instead of fact,” Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University and a presidential historian, told me….
The Ukraine debacle is the most extreme case, illustrating just what can happen when the president takes hold of a bad idea and won’t let it go. Repellent to Trump is the notion that he would have lost to Hillary Clinton had it not been for Russia’s electoral interference. The self-image he’s constructed rests on the idea that he’s rich and successful—not a “loser,” the epithet he routinely hurls at opponents. Trump has worried that if people believe Russia’s interference spelled the difference in the election, it could undermine his legitimacy, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report showed.
All of which explains why, for the president, the Ukraine fiction is so alluring. It’s a twofer. If Ukraine covertly interfered in the election for Clinton’s benefit, as Trump has suggested, that would both exonerate Russia and cement his 2016 victory. Trump apparently finds that theory so compelling that he risked his presidency to see if he could give it traction. Loyal appointees are now pushing his message: In a news conference on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Ukraine merited investigation. The United States has “not only a right, but a duty” to look into any “information that any country has messed with American elections,” Pompeo said.
Trouble is, none of this has a basis in reality. Members of Trump’s own staff and intelligence-community officials have all debunked the idea that the culprit was Ukraine, not Russia.
Read the rest at The Atlantic.
I’ll end there. What stories have you been following on this long holiday weekend?
Crass Commercialism-Free FridayPosted: November 29, 2019 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: best of 2019 53 Comments
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I’m trying to deliver a stress free Friday Read but you know how difficult that can be these days. Time for all of us to get lost in books and movies! What’s on your screen? What book is beside your bed today?
So, here’s some “best books” lists from various sources.
The first list is from The Smithsonian.
As the year draws to a close, we have clear favorites. We explored the caves, tombs and catacombs under our feet in Will Hunt’s Underground and Robert Macfarlane’s Underland. In Sarah Milov’s The Cigarette and Sarah A. Seo’s Policing the Open Road, we learned about tobacco and cars, two things we thought we knew until these books dug into their complex histories. And Jeff Gordinier’s Hungry, Kwame Onwuachi’s Notes From a Young Black Chef and Iliana Regan’s Burn the Place chart the bold and sometimes bumpy paths taken by three renowned chefs.
The top book by Publisher’s Weekly is this one!
Here’s something new for us: a graphic memoir is among our 10 best books of the year. It’s Mira Jacob’s Good Talk, and it’s a wonderfully enchanting memoir that couldn’t be more of-the-moment, with its take on race in America that’s equally smart, pointed, funny, and touching. (There is also some wisdom in there about how to deal with Trump-supporting in-laws.)
Jacob’s book is joined in our top ten by nine other works that together offer a kaleidoscopic take on what it means to be alive right now.
And, here’s the one from the NYT Book Review team. Their first offering is Disappearing Earth By Julia Phillips.
In the first chapter of this assured debut novel, two young girls vanish, sending shock waves through a town perched on the edge of the remote, brooding Kamchatka Peninsula. What follows is a novel of overlapping short stories about the various women who have been affected by their disappearance. Each richly textured tale pushes the narrative forward another month and exposes the ways in which the women of Kamchatka have been shattered — personally, culturally and emotionally — by the crime.
My latest binge watch is HBO’s His Dark Dark Materials about a young girl in an alternative Time line. It was previously a movie of one of the books of the Trilogy (The Golden Compass) and the books by Phillip Pullman were published in the 1990s. It took me to this third episode to get reeled in.
The series is actually also on the BBC. It’s been playing on HBO first.
The eight-part adaptation tells the story of Lyra, the young protagonist who lives in Jordan College, Oxford. Placed there at the request of her Uncle, Lord Asriel, she lives a sheltered life amongst the scholars and college staff while under the watchful protection of The Master and Librarian Scholar Charles.
When the glamorous and mesmeric Mrs Coulter enters Lyra’s life she embarks upon a dangerous journey of discovery from Oxford to London. Here she meets Father Macphail, Lord Boreal and journalist Adele Starminster at a glittering society party where she first hears about the sinister General Oblation Board.
Lyra is subsequently thrown into the nomadic world of the boat dwelling Gyptians – Ma Costa, Farder Coram, John Faa, Raymond Van Geritt, Jack Verhoeven and Benjamin de Ruyter who take her North in her quest. Once in the North she meets charismatic aeronaut and adventurer Lee Scoresby who joins them on their epic journey and who becomes one of Lyra’s closest allies.
Each human has an animal “daemon” that serves as its soul and conscious. The animals speak and are quite well done. Children’s daemon’s only take a permanent form when they become adults so Lyra’s changes form quite often.
NPR has listed its choices for best music of 2019. I’m glad to see Missy Elliot back on the list.
Missy Elliott not only justified the VMAs’ existence but also dropped the Iconology EP in August, reminding us just how vital and future-seeking she continues to be. “Throw It Back” appears on NPR Music’s monthly best-of list along with Normani‘s irresistible “Motivation” and a blistering rock song by Big Thief.
Take a visit to the Hall of Missy with some pretty great young women!
And this is worth the read to remember your childhood reading!!
So, it’s your turn!
What’s on your reading, watching, listening, blogging list today?
Thanksgiving Day ReadsPosted: November 28, 2019 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Thanksgiving 31 Comments
I hope everyone has a lovely day whatever you choose to do. As always these days, there is plenty of news even though it’s a holiday. Some stories to check out if you want a distraction from cooking, eating and visiting with family and friends:
The Washington Post: Ken Cuccinelli walked into a bar. And Martin O’Malley lit into him.
A liberal ex-governor walks into a bar, followed by a conservative Trump administration official.
Instead of a punchline, what followed, one witness said, was a “shame-invoking tirade” by Martin O’Malley, the former Democratic governor of Maryland, directed at Ken Cuccinelli II, the former Virginia attorney general who is acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
The two political polar opposites crossed paths Wednesday night at the Dubliner, a Capitol Hill Irish pub popular on Thanksgiving Eve with Gonzaga College High School graduates. Both men attended the school, graduating five years apart in the 1980s.
Siobhan Arnold, who was visiting from Philadelphia, had just met O’Malley at the bar when Cuccinelli walked in. Soon the two men were face-to-face, she said, with O’Malley excoriating Cuccinelli over the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
O’Malley said “something about his [Cuccinelli’s] grandparents,” Arnold said in an interview. Cuccinelli said little if anything in reply, she added, quickly leaving the pub.
“O’Malley was shouting,” Arnold said. “I don’t think Cuccinelli was responding. I think he’s like, ‘Time to go. Just got here and I’m leaving.’ He pretty much retreated.”
Speaking to the Post over text message, O’Malley, who served as Maryland governor from 2006 to 2014 and made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, confirmed the incident, but said he did not believe he had shouted at Cuccinelli, but had simply raised his voice “just to be heard” in the popular venue.
The former governor said he also was not the only one to air his grievances with Cuccinelli, who he described as “the son of immigrant parents who cages children for a fascist president,” that evening.
“We all let him know how we felt about him putting refugee immigrant kids in cages,” O’Malley said, adding that such practices were “certainly not what we were taught by the Jesuits at Gonzaga.”
Ousted Navy Secretary published an op-ed at the Washington Post: Richard Spencer: I was fired as Navy secretary. Here’s what I’ve learned because of it.
The case of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was charged with multiple war crimes before being convicted of a single lesser charge earlier this year, was troubling enough before things became even more troubling over the past few weeks. The trail of events that led to me being fired as secretary of the Navy is marked with lessons for me and for the nation.
It is highly irregular for a secretary to become deeply involved in most personnel matters. Normally, military justice works best when senior leadership stays far away. A system that prevents command influence is what separates our armed forces from others. Our system of military justice has helped build the world’s most powerful navy; good leaders get promoted, bad ones get moved out, and criminals are punished.
President Trump involved himself in the case almost from the start. Before the trial began, in March, I received two calls from the president asking me to lift Gallagher’s confinement in a Navy brig; I pushed back twice, because the presiding judge, acting on information about the accused’s conduct, had decided that confinement was important. Eventually, the president ordered me to have him transferred to the equivalent of an enlisted barracks. I came to believe that Trump’s interest in the case stemmed partly from the way the defendant’s lawyers and others had worked to keep it front and center in the media.
After the verdict was delivered, the Navy’s normal process wasn’t finished. Gallagher had voluntarily submitted his request to retire. In his case, there were three questions: Would he be permitted to retire at the rank of chief, which is also known as an E-7? (The jury had said he should be busted to an E-6, a demotion.) The second was: Should he be allowed to leave the service with an “honorable” or “general under honorable” discharge? And a third: Should he be able to keep his Trident pin, the medal all SEALs wear and treasure as members of an elite force?
On Nov. 14, partly because the president had already contacted me twice, I sent him a note asking him not to get involved in these questions.
Read the rest at the WaPo link.
CNN: Worry rises in military over Trump’s decision-making.
Tensions that have been mounting for months between some of the nation’s most senior military officers and President Donald Trump are boiling over after his decision to intervene in the cases of three service members accused of war crimes.
A long-serving military officer put it bluntly, telling CNN “there is a morale problem,” and senior Pentagon officials have privately said they are disturbed by the President’s behavior.
Dismay in the Pentagon has been building over Trump’s sporadic, impulsive and contradictory decision-making on a range of issues, including his sudden pullback of troops in Syria. But now there are new and significant worries, as multiple military officials and retired officers say Trump’s intervention into high-profile war crimes cases cannot be ignored….
Trump had upped the ante at a rally on Tuesday by issuing an extraordinary declaration that he took action in the face of “deep state” opposition. In fact, senior Pentagon officials had been unanimously opposed to the President’s intervention because they believed it would undermine military discipline and order.
The President’s comments and his intervention — at the urging of Fox News commentators — reflect another worry among military leaders that Trump continues to be influenced by the network in ways that encourage him to politicize the military, an institution that is meant to stay above the political fray.
Read more at CNN.
Some uncomfortable stories have been coming out about Trump’s EU Ambassdor and impeachment witness Gordon Sondland.
First up, did he fabricate the call in which he claimed Trump said “I want nothing….no quid quo pro?” The Washington Post: Witness testimony and records raise questions about account of Trump’s ‘no quid pro quo’ call.
Sondland’s recollection of a phone conversation that he said took place on Sept. 9 has emerged as a centerpiece of Trump’s defense as House Democrats argue in an impeachment inquiry that he abused his office to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democrats.
However, no other witness testimony or documents have emerged that corroborate Sondland’s description of a call that day.
Trump himself, in describing the conversation, has referred only to the ambassador’s account of the call, which — based on Sondland’s activities — would have occurred before dawn in Washington. And the White House has not located a record in its switchboard logs of a call between Trump and Sondland on Sept. 9, according to an administration official who, like others in this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
But there is evidence of another call between Trump and Sondland that occurred a few days earlier — one with a very different thrust, in which the president made clear that he wanted his Ukrainian counterpart to personally announce investigations into Trump’s political opponents.
The conflicting information raises serious questions about the accuracy of Sondland’s account, one that Trump has embraced to counter a growing body of evidence that he and his allies pressured Ukraine for his own political benefit.
More Sondland stories:
The Daily Beast: Sondland’s Ties to Romanian Official Set Off Alarms at National Security Council.
ProPublica: Multiple Women Recall Sexual Misconduct and Retaliation by Gordon Sondland.
Bad news for Trump at The New York Times: Russia Inquiry Review Is Expected to Undercut Trump Claim of F.B.I. Spying.
The Justice Department’s inspector general found no evidence that the F.B.I. attempted to place undercover agents or informants inside Donald J. Trump’s campaign in 2016 as agents investigated whether his associates conspired with Russia’s election interference operation, people familiar with a draft of the inspector general’s report said.
The determination by the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, is expected to be a key finding in his highly anticipated report due out on Dec. 9 examining aspects of the Russia investigation. The finding also contradicts some of the most inflammatory accusations hurled by Mr. Trump and his supporters, who alleged not only that F.B.I. officials spied on the Trump campaign but also at one point that former President Barack Obama had ordered Mr. Trump’s phones tapped. The startling accusation generated headlines but Mr. Trump never backed it up.
The finding is one of several by Mr. Horowitz that undercuts conservatives’ claims that the F.B.I. acted improperly in investigating several Trump associates starting in 2016. He also found that F.B.I. leaders did not take politically motivated actions in pursuing a secret wiretap on a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page — eavesdropping that Mr. Trump’s allies have long decried as politically motivated.
But Mr. Horowitz will sharply criticize F.B.I. leaders for their handling of the investigation in some ways, and he unearthed errors and omissions when F.B.I. officials applied for the wiretap, according to people familiar with a draft of the report. The draft contained a chart listing numerous mistakes in the process, one of the people said.
More news, links only:
The Washington Post: North Korea launches two projectiles in Thanksgiving message to Trump.
The New York Times: Time Is Running Out for Trump’s North Korean Diplomacy, Analysts Say.
The Washington Post: Appeals court stays ruling that former White House counsel Donald McGahn must comply with House subpoena.
AP: Judge upholds charges that could put Weinstein away for life.
The Verge: Apple alters Maps and Weather to show Crimea as a Russian territory.
The Washington Post: Trump official who suggested dropping nuclear bombs on Afghanistan now responsible for arms control issues.
Edward Luce at The Financial Times: How money laundering is poisoning American democracy.
HuffPost: Trump Has Spent $115 Million On Golf Trips ― Or 287 Years Of Presidential Salary.
Mother Jones: Rudy Giuliani Has a Foreign-Lobbying Problem, and It Just Got Bigger.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Report: Trump’s Business More Fraudulent Than Previously Known.
Have a wonderful, relaxing Thanksgiving Day, everyone!!
Wednesday Reads: Pre-ThanksgivingsPosted: November 27, 2019 Filed under: morning reads 16 Comments
I just get a kick out of that vintage comic…
It’s almost here, Turkey 🦃 Day!
This Thanksgiving let’s take some time to think about food scarcity.
#Repost @indigenousgoddessgang with @get_repost
From California to New Mexico to Maine, Native Americans are growing what they eat, more and more. Climate change makes these efforts especially urgent. Homegrown fruits and veggies are good for health and a bulwark against a climate-uncertain future. Before Europeans arrived in North America, Native American cuisine varied greatly from location to location. Some people relied on the abundance of the Pacific coast: elk and deer, salmon and smelt, berries and acorns. But as Native Americans were violently displaced by Colonizers, many of those food traditions were lost.
One in four Native Americans, for example, are faced with food insecurity – uncertain access to enough sufficient, affordable food to get the actual nourishment they need.
At least 60 reservations in the United States grapple with food insecurity.
The condition is common in what are referred to as Food apartheid which is a relentless social construct that devalues human beings and assumes that people are unworthy of having access to nutritious food. Some call them “food deserts” – rural or urban areas that are vapid of fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy whole foods. These food deserts offer more convenience stores and fast-food restaurants than supermarkets and grocery stores – thus contributing to communities of people with poor diets and higher levels of obesity and diet-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Food deserts are prevalent on many American Indian reservations. This is coupled with the reality of Native Americans enduring one of the highest rates of poverty in the U.S.. Households of Native American families are 400 percent more likely than other U.S.. These communities are ‘everything deserts,’ we have limited health care. We don’t have transportation and infrastructure. We don’t have basic things that every other community typically has. Low-income individuals get priced out of high-quality health foods. After all, $50 worth of boxed meals and frozen dinners can often last a family longer than $50 worth of fresh vegetables and lean meats.
Local gardens are a budding solution to the food insecurity that plagues indigenous communities.
And just a few Tweets:
Last night on The Last Word, Katy Tur showed this graphic:
Now… take a look at that 33% of jackasses who supported impeachment for Obama, ya think it is the same 33% bigoted orange fuckwad tRump backing base dickheads? I say, fuck yeah!
I will leave it there with a little Dolly…
This is an open thread.
Tuesday Reads: Trump Infects the U.S. Military with His Political CorruptionPosted: November 26, 2019 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Alexander McCoy, Charlotte Clymer, Donald Trump, Eddie Gallagher, Geneva Convention, James Waters, Mark Esper, My Lai Massacre, Navy Seals, Political Corruption, Richard Spencer, Universal Code of Military Justice, war crimes 22 Comments
Today fallout continues from Trump’s pardons of accused and/or convicted war criminals. Yesterday Dakinikat wrote about the firing of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over an internal review board investigation of Eddie Gallagher, a Navy Seal who was convicted of posing for a trophy photo of a dead ISIS fighter. Gallagher was also accused of stabbing to death the teenager in the photo was acquitted.
In today’s New York Times, two former Navy secretaries Richard J. Danzig and write: Trump and the Military Do Not Share the Same Values.
“Get back to business!” With this tweet, President Trump directed his secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, to stop the naval officers charged with oversight of the SEALs from disciplining one of their own. That order was confirmed on Monday by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and over the weekend, Mr. Spencer was fired.
There are three problems with Mr. Trump’s action. The first is that it is very much the Navy’s business — and every military’s business — to maintain, as the military so often recites and Mr. Spencer put it in his final letter to the president, “good order and discipline.” In conducting their “business,” our military services are not and must not be commanded in support of political ends, as Mr. Trump was apparently doing here.
How the president chooses to value order and discipline in his White House, and if at all, is of real concern to all Americans. But the military is not an extension of his White House. Some may argue that all actions by a president may have some political component, yet instead of constraining that component, this action by this president celebrates and encourages it.
The second problem intensifies the first. Contamination from the president’s approach is amplified when his judgment is largely shaped by television commentators and his decision announced by tweet. The military has well-established procedures for assuring good order and discipline. They begin by eliciting a judgment by peers. No one is as well positioned to balance the exigencies of combat and the demands of law and ethics as a panel of fellow sailors, Marines, airmen or soldiers….
Finally, there is the judgment itself. An American service member shared a photograph of himself with a corpse along with the message: “I have got a cool story for you when I get back. I have got my knife skills on.” Our president’s endorsement of the perpetrator will be taken as a representation of our values. Our own troops, many of them teenagers, will be misled by the president’s sense, or lack of sense, of honor.
Paul Waldman at The Washington Post: How Richard Spencer’s firing illustrates some of Trump’s most corrupt impulses.
One key reason Donald Trump’s presidency has been so damaging is that he has a way of corrupting all the people and institutions he comes in contact with, infecting them with his virus. No one remains untouched.
As the sudden firing of Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer shows, that includes the military. Spencer’s story also bears a remarkable resemblance to the Ukraine scandal, in the way people with their own agendas played on Trump’s most repugnant impulses to manipulate him.
Spencer’s firing has its roots in the case of Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who became a Fox News hero. Gallagher’s long and complicated case began when members of his own unit accused him of a series of war crimes, including firing on civilians and murdering a wounded teenage Islamic State fighter receiving medical treatment from his unit.
Gallagher allegedly stabbed the wounded fighter multiple times, then took a picture with his corpse and texted it to friends, with the caption “Got him with my hunting knife.” He was also charged with covering up his crime by threatening to kill members of his platoon if they reported it. They did anyway….
Trump pardoned him, along with two other service members who had also been accused of war crimes.
Those pardons generated enormous controversy both inside and outside the military, but they were not surprising. From the time he began running for president, Trump has shown nothing but contempt for ideas like military order and discipline, respect for human rights and standards of wartime conduct. He has advocated torturing detainees, suggested that a way to fight terrorism would be to murder the families of suspected terrorists and mused about committing genocide. Accused war criminals are his kind of people.
There’s much more at the link. I hope you’ll go read the rest.
CBS News: Ousted Navy Secretary Richard Spencer defends handling of Navy SEAL case.
Spencer stepped down at the request of Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday amid an ongoing controversy over Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, whose case attracted President Trump’s attention.
Esper told reporters Monday that he fired Spencer after “losing trust and confidence in him regarding his lack of candor.” He accused Spencer of secretly proposing a deal to the White House that would allow Gallagher to retire and retain his Trident pin, which denotes his status as a SEAL, a move Esper said was “completely contrary” to what the two had discussed.
In an interview Monday, Spencer told CBS News he spoke with White House counsel Pat Cipollone on November 15 and proposed an arrangement in which Gallagher would be allowed to retire as a SEAL if the president agreed not to intervene in the case and “let the Navy do its administrative work.” Spencer said Cipollone called back the same day to decline the offer, saying the president would be involved.
“In order to preserve the resiliency of the naval institution, I had to step up and do something when it came to the Gallagher case,” Spencer said.
Spencer acknowledged not telling Esper about the proposal.
“I will take the bad on me, for not letting him know I did that,” Spencer said. “But as far as I was concerned, at that point, the president understood the deal. Arguably, he doesn’t have to deal with anyone. He said, ‘I’m going to be involved.’ He sent a signed letter to me, an order with his signature on it, saying, ‘Promote Edward Gallagher to E7,'” the rank of chief petty officer.
Esper acknowledged Monday that when confronted about his secret negotiations with the White House, Spencer “was completely forthright in admitting what had been going on.”
Read more at the link.
The Independent spoke to veterans about the situation: US veterans say Trump views military ‘as tool for massacres’ after reinstating accused war criminal to Navy.
Numerous veterans spoke out about the move to The Independent after Secretary of Defence Mark Esper confirmed he was ordered by the president to retain Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s status in the elite service, as well as his Trident pin, a prestigious special warfare insignia.
“Ever since Donald Trump became president he’s been tearing the military apart, putting troops in the difficult position of needing to choose between obedience to his unhinged orders, and staying true to our code of honour,” said Alexander McCoy, a former Marine and political director of the veteran group Common Defence. “By pardoning war criminals because Fox News told him to, Trump showed he sees our military as a tool for massacres, not as the professional, honourable force we aspire to be.” [….]
The president’s demands could cause “significant long-term damage to the Naval Special Warfare community,” according to James Waters, a former Navy SEAL platoon commander and White House staff member in the Bush administration, who told The Independent: “The only people who weigh in on whether a Navy SEAL deserves to keep his Trident are people who have their Trident.”
“Every SEAL knows he must ‘earn your Trident every day’ – even after officially qualifying – and the same standard should apply here,” Mr Waters said. “Unless you’ve been through Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training and served in the Teams and know the specific facts related to a person’s performance, you’re not qualified to weigh in.” [….]
“There’s a reason we have the Geneva Convention. There’s a reason we have the Universal Code of Military Justice. There’s a reason we have the morale and ethics that we learn in training,” said Josh Manning, a former Army intelligence officer. “For Trump to just step in and undermine centuries worth of morale and discipline undercuts the very military that he’s trying to command.” [….]
Charlotte Clymer, an Army Veteran and press secretary at the Human Rights Campaign, said Mr Trump appeared to be “hell-bent on exploiting” the military justice system for his own purposes.
“My colleagues and I, those still serving and not, are openly horrified by the way this coward has explicitly condoned war crimes, seemingly to pander to people who don’t understand how this undermines our moral authority,” she told The Independent. “I’ve talked to other service members and veterans, and none of us are sure how this could get worse.”
They’re suggesting that Trump wants to take us back to Vietnam years when we had shameful incidents like the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.
In a final outrage, Trump now says he wants to use the pardoned war criminals in his 2020 campaign. Daily Beast: Trump Tells Allies He Wants Absolved War Criminals to Campaign for Him.
If Donald Trump gets his wish, he’ll soon take the three convicted or accused war criminals he spared from consequence on the road as special guests in his re-election campaign, according to two sources who have heard Trump discuss their potential roles for the 2020 effort.
Despite military and international backlash to Trump’s Nov. 15 clemency—fallout from which cost Navy Secretary Richard Spencer his job on Sunday—Trump believes he has rectified major injustices. Two people tell The Daily Beast they’ve heard Trump talk about how he’d like to have the now-cleared Clint Lorance, Matthew Golsteyn, or Edward Gallagher show up at his 2020 rallies, or even have a moment on stage at his renomination convention in Charlotte next year. Right-wing media have portrayed all three as martyrs brought down by “political correctness” within the military.
“He briefly discussed making it a big deal at the convention,” said one of these sources, who requested anonymity to talk about private conversations. “The president made a reference to the 2016 [convention] and where they brought on-stage heroes” like former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who refused to execute detained civilians ahead of a devastating Taliban attack.
So next year he wants to celebrate men who chose to execute civilians and detainees?
What stories are you following today?