Trump Flips the G-7 Script

Trade has been a large component of the weekend news blather due to the G-7 Comedy Revue hosted by Canada with President Trump leading the charge against America’s allies.  After being lambasted by the leaders of the G-7 countries for increasing tariffs against them, Trump dropped a couple of bombs.  The first was the suggestion that maybe Russia should rejoin the group, causing spasms in anti-Trump Muellerites (“I knew it!  Got ‘em!”). And the second was that maybe the G-7 shouldn’t have any tariffs or subsidies between them at all.  With that, Trump drops the mic, says peace out losers, I’m going to Singapore to bring global peace…later.

That

Is

Hilarious!

Somehow, Trump manages to turn it around, after being criticized as a protectionist; he leaves the G-7 meeting dropping the most free trade friendly proposal ever, leaving it to the establishment class to explain why Trump’s protectionism is bad, but that Trump’s free trade ideas are also bad because…TRUMP!

Although the Singapore summit may drown out a lot of the usual media backlash to Trump’s G-7 smack down, it’s hard to not be in awe of how Trump turned the criticism of him on trade right back on the other members of the G-7, demanding they liberalize their economies.  Something of course, they have no intention of doing, thereby illustrating Trump’s point that free trade isn’t free trade if it only runs one way.

And in a related trade note, that standard bearer of the conventional wisdom, The Atlantic, ran a piece Friday called, Normalizing Trade Relations with China Was a Mistake. Admittedly, it was written by Reihan Salam, The Atlantic’s one of two token conservatives remaining (after giving Kevin Williamson the boot), but I thought it was interesting that Atlantic Editor in Chief Jeffery Goldberg retweeted the article, calling it “bracing.” Goldberg is as conventional wisdom as conventional wisdom gets, and if he’s willing to take another look at a position that he’s slavishly supported for years, that may signal the beginning of the establishment looking at trade Trump’s way, rather than K Street’s way.

That would be big.  More winning?

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The Trumpification of Homeland

Homeland is not the only show that’s been thrown for a loop (still!) by the 2016 elections.  I’ve mentioned a few others previously, and this television season, even Mayor Oliver Queen from Arrow is being impeached.  It’s an epidemic I tell ya…

But the King and Queen of all Trump-tastrophes is Showtime’s Homeland.  Its two season #resist has finally, mercifully, ended.  It’s a sad detour for what had been one of the better quality shows on television, or at least premium cable.  For those not familiar with the show, it’s a national security thriller starring Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, a crack CIA analyst who is (was) secretly bipolar.  Her mentor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) treats her like a daughter, and constantly puts his career at risk for Carrie’s crazy analytical hunches, which often enough, turn out to be dead right.  After several seasons of fighting Islamic terror, Iranian terror, finally, show goes after the greatest threat of all, Carrie takes on the Trumpian patriarchy.

To summarize last year’s season 6 quickly (spoilers!), Carrie is out of the CIA and is working for an NGO in New York.  This takes place after the US presidential election in which the woman candidate, Elizabeth Keane, defeats whoever the old white male was.  Keane is all for downsizing the US presence in the Middle East; a position she is guided to by Carrie, who is secretly an advisor to the transition team.  But the evil neocon patriarchy isn’t done yet, and launches a false flag terrorist bombing in NYC, with one of Carrie’s Muslim clients as the patsy.

This was around episode 5 or 6 when the producer’s world collapsed, Donald Trump won the election.

“At one point each season, we are writing scripts contemporaneously with real events happening. That occurred this season around episode five or six when the election happened, and we realized that we were gonna have to change the narrative a little bit. The first thing we wanted to address was this idea that our election was influenced by another force; by fake news, which struck us as a very right topic to construct a story around. Sock puppets were actually already part of the story, then we introduced O’Keefe in episode five instead of eight, which we’d planned originally.”

So enter an Alex Jones like figure, Brett O’Keefe, who is involved with the sinister deep state forces trying to keep a sister down, and engages in a social media war against President-elect Keane, using fake twitter accounts and doctored video.

It’s pretty clear at this point where the producers originally intended to go and where they made changes.  The deep state and its social media fake news allies go after Keane, and eventually decide to launch an assassination attempt, which is thwarted, and Keane takes the oath of office and becomes President.  At this point, Keane morphs into Donald Trump, reeking with authoritarian paranoia, begins mass arrests of national security, defense, and intelligence officials (including Saul).  Carrie is shut out from the White House and democracy dies in darkness…

My wife and I couldn’t believe what an abortion season 6 had turned into. The Homeland writers’ room actually took their post-election breakdown and wrecked their TV show with it.

To me, it was so bad that I thought the only logical recourse was to have Carrie step out of the shower with the entire season having been just a dream, and then back overseas for some international intrigue.  No such luck.  Instead we got season 7, the pussyhat season.  I knew it was going to be bad when the opening credits showed rebel flag waving rednecks and Klansmen in full KKK regalia.  Did that have anything to do with season 7?  Nope, but the show did shine a spotlight on its greatest fear, flyover country rural whites, armed and angry.  Were rural whites the big bad for the season?  Close but no cigar, and it’s not even a spoiler to tell you who the real big bad of the season is:

THE RUSSIANS!

If you couldn’t have figured that out before the season even started, you haven’t been paying attention.

In the rush to un-Trump President Keane, the show decides to put all the previous deep state blame on one General, who is sentenced to prison and promptly assassinated.  Whoa, what luck!  So Keane releases the 200 plus conspirators and maybe conspirators, including Saul, and makes him National Security Advisor.  So the deep state enemies are now the good guys, and the bad President is now good again.

So after a season fighting poor whites, the Russians, and a Congressional plot to 25th Amendment President Keane out of office, Keane ends up resigning anyway because half the country already thinks she’s a liar.  I suppose this was to be the writer’s suggestion for Trump: Resign now.

Oh and Carrie is crazy again.

I’ve no doubt Showtime, the producers, writers and actors are all very smug about how they’ve wrecked their show, but it seems a sad end even though the show is getting another season.  Alas poor Homeland, Hollywood wrecked you…

 

Morning Joe Makes the Case for John Bolton

Although I can see the reason that Trump fired H.R. McMaster, Trump’s most recent National Security Advisor, I admit I’m not much of a fan of his replacement, John Bolton.

Bolton’s never met a war he didn’t like, and doesn’t see any diplomatic quagmire that can’t be fixed with a little pre-emptive bombing.  So…not my cup of tea, and no surprise, he was panic inducing to the whimpering girls and man-girls of MSNBC. In a Morning Joe video called, “Former Ambassador is scared by naming of John Bolton,” the shaking and shivering is cringe inducing.

0:35 Former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul says he’s scared by Bolton (man up you pussy!).

1:05 Former Ambassador McFaul says John Bolton will prefer military solutions in North Korea.

5:00 Reporter Courtney Kube makes gratuitous reference to The Hunger Games (?).

8:15 Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas frets that not only North Korea has to be nervous, our allies in the region have to be nervous. She notes that Bolton had previously been banned from negotiations by North Korea, who called him a “bloodsucker,” and “scum.”

11:30 McFaul says that Trump is putting together a team to go to war with North Korea.

Mika ended the segment by noting how disturbing it all was.

Ha!

Although this resembled the usual media hair on fire reaction to anything Trump does, it actually provided a little information that helped me put the Bolton hire into perspective. First, I don’t disagree that Bolton has publicly stated positions that polish his war-monger credentials, since he penned an op ed last month calling on a preemptive strike to eliminate North Korea’s missile program.

What was really interesting to me however, was that Bolton was a known player to the North Koreans, having been the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security when he made a 2003 speech, in which “he described North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as a “tyrannical dictator” and saying that, for North Koreans under Kim’s rule, “life is a hellish nightmare.” In response, a North Korean spokesman said “such human scum and bloodsucker is not entitled to take part in the talks.””

And that’s when it hit me that Trump might be favoring him because of his bad reputation with the North Koreans, not in spite of it.

I’ve mentioned before my four theories of Trump’s operating system.  In this case, the typical liberal/establishment/media view would be theory one, Trump is all id who saw Bolton on Fox news who said some tough things, and Trump liked it.  But this looks like a theory three situation, in which Trump is putting on a show, in this case for the North Koreans.  Trump in negotiating likes for his opponents to think he will do anything, and what better optic to underscore that point than by firing McMaster for bomb thrower Bolton right before the beginning of high level negotiations with the outlaw state?

I’m suspecting the “chaos” of the revolving door White House might instead be more that Trump is hiring temps for piecemeal work.  In this case, Bolton was the perfect foil to frighten the Norks, thinking that a guy who has been advocating bombing of North Korea now has the President’s ear before the beginning of talks between the two countries.  Hopefully after Bolton has served his purpose he will be shown the revolving door.

 

CNN Debate Observations

 

Prez debate

I’m of the mind that most TV “debate” shows are a joke. They’re not really debates, they’re joint press conferences, and the stars are always the debate moderators.  So why TV news personalities are debate moderators is a puzzle.  They don’t know how to moderate or control the flow of questions, and being TV people, they always want to make it about themselves, as Megyn Kelly and Candy Crowley demonstrated when they had their turn at bat.

So when I heard Jake Tapper’s pre debate explanation of how the debate was going to run; they were going to ask questions of candidates about what the other (read Trump) candidates said, I thought that for CNN, this was only about trying to start fights for ratings, and certainly the CNN radio ads I heard promoting the debate sounded nothing if not like Wrestling Promos.  And it apparently worked.  The debate was the highest rated event in CNN history, garnering 20 million viewers.

The format worked on the viewer level too.  It was one of the more freewheeling political debates I’ve seen.  The candidates actually engaged with each other, rather than simply answering the moderator’s questions. That being said, I had a few observations about the debate:

No real losers to the debate, but Jeb once again failed to live up to donor expectations.  On a scale from one to ten, he went from a two to a four.  That’s due to taking Trump’s advice and start displaying more energy.

I rarely agree with the conventional wisdom, but this time I agree that best performance was by Carly Fiorina.  One good performance could be a fluke, but two in a row look like a trend.

Chris Christie also did well.  When he gets airtime, he can put on a good show. Under this debate he got enough airtime, 13 minutes, to make a good impression.

Ignore whatever the media says about who won.  For the last debate, they declared Kasich the winner based solely on preferring his positions on immigration and gay marriage.

Carson and Huckabee are vying for the slot of evangelical candidate, and Carson is running far ahead.  Huckabee is trying to go over the top in supporting Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, who is trying to cloak herself in religion to keep her from doing her job.  How invested evangelicals are in Davis may be what makes a difference for Huckabee.

There were of course the others, who made little impression (at least on me).

And then there’s Trump… (sung to the tune of the Maude theme song)

Jake Tapper tried to slip the noose of the anti vax truther aroundTrump, a situation he was able to slip out of rather easily.  But he didn’t out and out deny the autism-vaccination link, a weakness which allowed Salon and Slate to declare Trump as still harping the anti vaccination line.  Of course your average Slate or Salon reader will be predisposed to hate Trump anyway.  But journalists read Slate and Salon, so expect further anti-vax questions in the future.

Trump was also weak on policy, specifically foreign policy. I expected him to change tactics this debate to “keep’em guessing”, and he did; he cooled the slapstick and insults and tried to be agreeable, but I expected he would bring some foreign policy zingers to the table to show gravitas for the talking heads. He didn’t do that.

Trump can’t wait until he’s President to bone up on these issues or he’s never going to be President. He needs to bone up now and start demonstrating how much detail he knows about our various foreign policy issues.  It can be done.  Marco Rubio, as a first term senator, already has shown a command of foreign policy issues and has been able to stay ahead of journalists trying to trip him up.

This is not the end of Trump, but if doesn’t start showing that he can discuss policy particulars, rather than just say this will be great, this could be the beginning of the end of Trump.