U.S. Government & governance 2020

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U.S. Government & governance 2019
Our Caesar Can the country come back from Trump?
The Republic already looks like Rome in ruins

Trump Can’t Cancel the Election.
But States Could Do It for Him.

16 March
Inside the Coronavirus Response: A Case Study in the White House Under Trump
By Maggie Haberman and Noah Weiland
Infighting, turf wars and a president more concerned with the stock market and media coverage than policy have defined the Trump White House. They have also defined how it has handled a pandemic.
Senior aides battling one another for turf, and advisers protecting their own standing. A president who is racked by indecision and quick to blame others and who views events through the lens of how the news media covers them. A pervasive distrust of career government professionals, and disregard for their recommendations. And a powerful son-in-law whom aides fear crossing, but who is among the few people the president trusts.
The culture that President Trump has fostered and abided by for more than three years in the White House has shaped his administration’s response to a deadly pandemic that is upending his presidency and the rest of the country, with dramatic changes to how Americans live their daily lives.
It explains how Mr. Trump could announce he was dismissing his acting chief of staff as the crisis grew more severe, creating even less clarity in an already fractured chain of command. And it was a major factor in the president’s reluctance to even acknowledge a looming crisis, for fear of rattling the financial markets that serve as his political weather vane.
Crises are treated as day-to-day public relations problems by Mr. Trump, who thinks ahead in short increments of time and early on in his presidency told aides to consider each day as an episode in a television show. The type of long-term planning required for an unpredictable crisis like a pandemic has brought into stark relief the difficulties that Mr. Trump was bound to face in a real crisis.
Mr. Trump has refused repeated warnings to rely on experts, or to neutralize some of the power held by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in favor of a traditional staff structure. He has rarely fully empowered people in the jobs they hold.

11 March
Trump’s Dangerously Effective Coronavirus Propaganda
The president’s effort to play down the pandemic is being amplified by a coalition of partisan media, digital propagandists, and White House officials.
(The Atlantic) From the moment the coronavirus reached the United States, President Donald Trump has seemed determined to construct an alternate reality around the outbreak. In the information universe he has formed, COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, is no worse than the seasonal flu; criticism of his response to it is a “hoax”; and media coverage of the virus is part of a political conspiracy to destroy his presidency.
Fact-checkers and scientists have scrambled to correct the misinformation coming out of the White House. (No, the virus has not been “contained” in America; no, testing is not available to anybody who wants it; no, people shouldn’t go to work if they’re sick.) But Trump’s message seems to have resonated with his base: A Quinnipiac University poll released this week found that just 35 percent of Republicans are concerned about the virus, compared with 68 percent of Democrats.

9 March
Joseph E. Stiglitz: Plagued by Trumpism
For 40 years, Republicans have been insisting that “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” But now that COVID-19, climate change, and other collective threats are bearing down on the US and the rest of the world, the bankruptcy of this nostrum has been laid bare.
(Project Syndicate) No US presidential administration has done more to undermine global cooperation and the role of government than that of Donald Trump. And yet, when we face a crisis like an epidemic or a hurricane, we turn to government, because we know that such events demand collective action. We cannot go it alone, nor can we rely on the private sector. All too often, profit-maximizing firms will see crises as opportunities for price gouging, as is already evident in the rising prices of face masks.
..as Linda Bilmes of the Harvard Kennedy School points out, the Trump administration has proposed cuts to the CDC’s funding year after year (10% in 2018, 19% in 2019). At the start of this year, Trump, demonstrating the worst timing imaginable, called for a 20% cut in spending on programs to fight emerging infectious and zoonotic diseases (that is, pathogens like coronaviruses, which originate in animals and jump to humans). And in 2018, he eliminated the National Security Council’s global health security and biodefense directorate.

2 March
The President Is Winning His War on American Institutions
How Trump is destroying the civil service and bending the government to his will
by George Packer
…a simple intuition had propelled Trump throughout his life: Human beings are weak. They have their illusions, appetites, vanities, fears. They can be cowed, corrupted, or crushed. A government is composed of human beings. This was the flaw in the brilliant design of the Framers, and Trump learned how to exploit it. The wreckage began to pile up. He needed only a few years to warp his administration into a tool for his own benefit. If he’s given a few more years, the damage to American democracy will be irreversible.
(The Atlantic Magazine April issue) The new president was impetuous, bottomlessly ignorant, almost chemically inattentive, while the bureaucrats were seasoned, shrewd, protective of themselves and their institutions. They knew where the levers of power lay and how to use them or prevent the president from doing so. Trump’s White House was chaotic and vicious, unlike anything in American history, but it didn’t really matter as long as “the adults” were there to wait out the president’s impulses and deflect his worst ideas and discreetly pocket destructive orders lying around on his desk.
After three years, the adults have all left the room—saying just about nothing on their way out to alert the country to the peril—while Trump is still there.
The adults were too sophisticated to see Trump’s special political talents—his instinct for every adversary’s weakness, his fanatical devotion to himself, his knack for imposing his will, his sheer staying power. They also failed to appreciate the advanced decay of the Republican Party, which by 2016 was far gone in a nihilistic pursuit of power at all costs.

28 February
Trump again nominates Rep. John Ratcliffe to be director of national intelligence
Trump sought to nominate Ratcliffe in July after his first intelligence director, Daniel Coats, left the administration. But the former U.S. attorney encountered stiff resistance in Congress, where lawmakers raised questions about his credentials and whether he had padded his résumé.
Congressional and intelligence officials have said Ratcliffe is a relatively disengaged member of the House Intelligence Committee and was not well known among the intelligence agencies.

27 February
70 former U.S. senators: The Senate is failing to perform its constitutional duties
(WaPo) Congress is not fulfilling its constitutional duties. Much of the responsibility rests on the Senate. We are writing to encourage the creation of a bipartisan caucus of incumbent senators who would be committed to making the Senate function as the Framers of the Constitution intended. … We believe a bipartisan caucus of incumbent members that promotes a fair opportunity for senators to participate in meaningful committee work as well as on the Senate floor could help restore the Senate to its essential place in our constitutional system. Its members would need to stand firm in the face of what could be strong opposition from partisans who prefer politicians who take intransigent positions over those who champion a legislative process that celebrates compromise.

22 February
What Would Happen If Trump Refused to Leave Office?
By Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan
A peaceful transfer of power is necessary for American democracy to survive.
(The Atlantic) If Trump were inclined to overstay his term, the levers of power work in favor of removal. Because the president immediately and automatically loses his constitutional authority upon expiration of his term or after removal through impeachment, he would lack the power to direct the U.S. Secret Service or other federal agents to protect him. He would likewise lose his power, as the commander in chief of the armed forces, to order a military response to defend him. In fact, the newly minted president would possess those presidential powers. If necessary, the successor could direct federal agents to forcibly remove Trump from the White House. Now a private citizen, Trump would no longer be immune from criminal prosecution, and could be arrested and charged with trespassing in the White House. While even former presidents enjoy Secret Service protection, agents presumably would not follow an illegal order to protect one from removal from office.
Although Trump’s remaining in office seems unlikely, a more frightening—and plausible—scenario would be if his defeat inspired extremist supporters to engage in violence.
See Trump says supporters could ‘demand’ he not leave office after two terms (June 2019)

21 February
Trump embarks on expansive search for disloyalty as administration-wide purge escalates
(WaPo) President Trump has instructed his White House to identify and force out officials across his administration who are not seen as sufficiently loyal, a post-impeachment escalation that administration officials say reflects a new phase of a campaign of retribution and restructuring ahead of the November election.
Johnny McEntee, Trump’s former personal aide who now leads the effort as director of presidential personnel, has begun combing through various agencies with a mandate from the president to oust or sideline political appointees who have not proved their loyalty, according to several administration officials and others familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Frank Rich: The Intelligence Community’s Bill Barr Moment
(New York) The House Intelligence Committee was recently briefed that Russia has already begun interfering in the 2020 campaign “to try to get President Trump re-elected,” according to a report in the New York Times. In response, Trump apparently replaced the acting director of national intelligence with a loyalist. Is this the intelligence community’s Bill Barr moment?
It has not even been three weeks since the Republican Senate acquitted Trump, ratifying his belief that he is above the law. In that brief time, he has conducted a political purge in the White House, let felons with personal connections to him out of jail, and now this: squelching his intelligence chiefs’ warnings of Russia’s efforts to further his reelection campaign, a de facto collusion with Vladimir Putin to betray American democracy.
Of course this is another Barr moment, with the new acting intelligence director, the utterly unqualified loyalist hack Richard Grenell, serving as a placeholder in that job, much as the utterly unqualified loyalist hack Matthew Whitaker did as acting attorney general until Trump recruited Barr. Whoever the new intel director proves to be, we can be assured that they will do Trump’s political bidding. Nothing will be done to combat Russian efforts to fix the election.
Will Richard Grenell Destroy the Intelligence Community?
President Trump selected an unqualified loyalist as his top spy. We know what happens next.
(NYT Opinion) Mr. Grenell has no experience as an intelligence officer at any level, nor has he overseen a large government bureaucracy. He has served in government only as communications director for the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. during the George W. Bush administration, and since May 2018 as ambassador to Germany. (In the interim, he founded and ran a public affairs consultancy, advising and commenting on Fox News.)
As usual, Republican senators privately advised the White House against the appointment, urging the president to select an intelligence professional instead. To get around Senate opposition, Mr. Trump chose to accord Mr. Grenell only “acting” status, circumventing Senate confirmation.
…this is not just another disparagement of the separation of powers. Within the executive branch itself, it is a calculated insult to the integrity and professionalism of the U.S. intelligence community, one that threatens to further impair the function of sound intelligence collection and analysis — that is, to inform U.S. policy — and to politicize the relationship between the White House and intelligence agencies.

16 February
Former Justice Dept. Lawyers Press for Barr to Step Down
More than 1,100 former prosecutors and officials who served in Republican and Democratic administrations signed an open letter condemning the president and the attorney general over the Stone case.
(NYT) They also urged current government employees to report any signs of unethical behavior at the Justice Department to the agency’s inspector general and to Congress.
“Each of us strongly condemns President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s interference in the fair administration of justice,” the former Justice Department lawyers, who came from across the political spectrum, wrote in an open letter on Sunday. Those actions, they said, “require Mr. Barr to resign.”
The sharp denunciation of Mr. Barr underlined the extent of the fallout over the case of Mr. Stone, capping a week that strained the attorney general’s relationship with his rank and file, and with the president himself.

15 February
Why the Presidency Can’t Just Go Back to ‘Normal’ After Trump
The “norms and traditions” that Trump has incinerated aren’t timeless features of American democracy; they’re actually quite new—and brittle.
(Politico) Many of these “presidential norms and traditions” that Trump has left by the wayside aren’t timeless at all; they’re actually quite new. They grew up alongside and in reaction to the expansion of both the federal state and the presidency—a process that began in the early 20th century but gained steam from the 1930s onward. …three cherished institutions—White House news briefings, independent courts, nonpartisan law enforcement agencies and a nonpartisan civil service. Their foundations are more young and shaky than you might think, and once altered, they may not be easily restored. Future presidents may regard newer precedents as more binding. A once-sturdy nonpartisan civil service and equally assured nonpartisan courts may be too weakened to enforce a return to prior norms. A public once conditioned to expect certain things of its presidents may have lost a critical amount of muscle memory. In short, anyone who expects a restoration of the status quo circa 2017 may be in for a rude awakening.

14 February
‘Grim Reaper’ Mitch McConnell Admits There Are 395 House Bills Sitting in the Senate: ‘We’re Not Going to Pass Those’
(Newsweek) McConnell explained that the bills would not get passed, because the government is divided. He said that instead they “have to work on things we can agree,” listing government spending, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement, an infrastructure bill, a parks bill and some environmental issues as examples of bills that they may be able to agree on.
When asked about a bipartisan infrastructure bill, McConnell said that it may not be a “big” bill, because it would “require dealing with the revenue sources that both sides are nervous about raising the gas tax, which is a regressive tax on low-income people.”
When asked about legislature regarding prescription drugs, McConnell said that while there are “differences on both sides,” there is a chance that the Senate will be able to legislate on the issue.
“It’s not that we’re not doing anything. It’s that we’re not doing what the House Democrats and these candidates for president on the Democratic ticket want to do,” he said.

12-13 February
Senate passes resolution to limit Trump’s power to order military action against Iran
The Senate passed a resolution Thursday to limit President Trump’s power to order military action against Iran without first seeking Congress’s permission, a bipartisan rebuke of his administration’s resistance to involving the legislative branch in decisions that some fear could lead to all-out war.
Eight Republicans joined all Democrats in voting 55 to 45 for the measure, despite sharp warnings from Trump that challenging his war powers would “show weakness” and “sends a very bad signal” to Tehran. Trump will almost certainly veto the measure once it passes the House, and neither chamber of Congress has the votes to override that veto, lawmakers say.
(WaPo) Trump has been raging at GOP senators, to frighten them away from taking new steps to rein in his authority to make war. This comes after the House passed a measure to compel Trump to seek congressional authorization for new hostilities against Iran.  Here’s why this matters: This is yet another area in which Trump is not just asserting unconstrained authority; he’s also openly and explicitly declaring that he feels zero obligation to offer any meaningful legal or substantive justification for acting on that authority.
The Power Trump Can Wield Like a Dictator
Congress must fix the law governing national emergencies before our democracy pays a hefty price.
By Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law
(NYT) The law governing national emergencies is broken and must be fixed while there is a window of opportunity before the election —  and before our democracy pays a hefty price. The law in question is the National Emergencies Act. This statute authorizes the president to declare a national emergency, which in turn gives him access to special powers set forth in more than 100 other provisions. Some of these powers seem more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy, like the authority to shut down communications systems, freeze Americans’ bank accounts and lend armed forces to other nations.
The Justice Department’s reputation is on life support
(WaPo) The withdrawal of all four career prosecutors handling the case against Roger Stone, in the wake of the Justice Department’s sentencing shift, underscores that Attorney General William P. Barr’s department has effectively gone rogue.
Prosecutors Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed and Michael Marando all sought permission Tuesday to leave the case. A fourth, Jonathan Kravis, has fully resigned his job as an assistant U.S. attorney. These actions threaten to throw the Justice Department into existential crisis.
None of the prosecutors gave a reason for their actions, but their exits followed the announcement Tuesday morning that the department would reduce its sentencing recommendation for Stone, a confidant of President Trump. That news itself came hours after Trump tweeted that Stone’s sentence was “horrible and very unfair.”

7 February
What Matters Most in the Battle Between Trump and Pelosi
The Speaker’s willingness to get in the President’s face has made many a meme, but their conflict has more to say about our constitutional checks and balances..

4 February
A Republic, If We Can Keep It
The government set up by James Madison and the other Founders requires a virtuous public and virtuous leaders—or the whole system will fail.
By Adam J. White, Resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute
(The Atlantic) In the days leading up to the Senate’s impeachment trial, some people hoped that Chief Justice John Roberts, presiding over the trial, would use his position to send a strong message to the senators on what the Constitution requires of them. He had, in fact, already sent such a message, just weeks earlier, on what the Constitution requires of all Americans. On December 31, in a letter accompanying his annual report on the work of the federal courts, Roberts called on federal judges—and everyone else—to invest themselves in the preservation of constitutional democracy.
“Each generation,” he wrote, “has an obligation to pass on to the next, not only a fully functioning government responsive to the needs of the people, but the tools to understand and improve it.” For Roberts, this requires civic education—and something more fundamental than that, too.
“In our age,” Roberts wrote, “when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale,” there is even greater danger that political passions can turn us against one another, or against constitutional government itself. He emphasized judges’ particular role as “a key source of national unity and stability,” but his deeper point was that those values are needed among more than just judges.

State of the Union Updates: Trump Adds Reality Show Flourishes to Address
On the eve of the final Senate votes in the impeachment trial, President Trump traded snubs with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and promoted a ‘Great American Comeback,’ pausing to award Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Fact-Checking Trump’s 2020 State of the Union Address and the Democratic Response

22 January
Citizens United: The Court Ruling That Sold Our Democracy
Ten years after Citizens United, the damage is broad and deep—but we can still fix it.
(Common Dreams) In the 10 years since the decision, there’s been $4.5 billion in political spending by outside interest groups, compared to $750 million spent in the 20 years prior to the case.
From 2000-2008, there were only 15 federal races where outside spending exceeded candidate spending. In the same amount of time following Citizens United, this occurred in 126 races. Now, almost half of all outside spending is dark money that has no or limited disclosure of its donors.
That money isn’t coming from the farmers suffering through Donald Trump’s trade war or the fast-food workers fighting for a living wage. It’s coming from the wealthiest donors, people often with very different priorities than the majority of Americans. In fact, a full one-fifth of all super PAC donations in the past 10 years have come from just 11 people.
… we also need meaningful anti-corruption reforms.
Thanks to a class of reformers elected in 2018, we’ve already begun that process. Last year, the House of Representatives passed the For the People Act (H.R. 1).
H.R. 1 would strengthen ethics rules and enforcement; reduce the influence of big money while empowering individual, small-dollar donors; and, along with a bill to restore the Voting Rights Act, protect every American’s right to vote. It also calls for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. [No surprise] this bill is being blocked by Mitch McConnell in the Senate.

21 January
The Imperial Presidency Is Alive and Well

Don’t Mistake Impeachment for a Congressional Effort to Claw Back Power
(Foreign Affairs) … don’t be fooled by the sudden congressional focus on foreign policy. Congress remains in a weak position to restrain the president overseas. The Democrats believe that Trump’s efforts to withhold aid to Ukraine until its government agreed to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden constituted an abuse of power and necessitated a vote to impeach the president. But the outcome of the Senate trial will reflect domestic politics, not senators’ views about legislative oversight of foreign affairs. Congress’s inability to pass a veto-proof bill to limit the president’s war powers in Iran, moreover, is one more sign that the balance of power on foreign policy isn’t shifting back toward the legislative branch.
… If the Cold War led to the rise of the imperial presidency, the end of the Cold War left the office virtually unconstrained overseas. Without great-power competition to focus the public’s attention, Congress turned inward. Constituents no longer seemed to value expertise on foreign affairs, so new members were less likely to develop proficiency. Leading committees such as Senate Foreign Relations and Senate Armed Services held fewer and fewer hearings, thus limiting direct legislative oversight of the executive branch.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks refocused attention on foreign policy, but they only accelerated the trend toward increasing presidential war power.
… Trump has demonstrated just how much power the executive has accrued. He unilaterally imposed tariffs on adversaries and allies alike, gave Turkey a green light to invade Syria, and authorized the assassination of Iran’s most important general. After the Soleimani strike, Trump sent out a tweet that he said served “as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back.” He added that “such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!”

Crippling the capacity of the National Security Council
Kathryn Dunn Tenpas
(Brookings) The Trump administration’s first three years saw record-setting turnover at the most senior level of the White House staff and the Cabinet. There are also numerous vacancies in Senate-confirmed positions across the executive branch. As of September 22, 2019, the turnover rate among senior White House aides had reached 80 percent, a rate that exceeded President Trump’s five predecessors after their entire first terms in office. The frequent departure of senior staff has been one of the most noteworthy features of this administration.
Within my “A Team” sample, I tracked eight senior NSC positions. By fall of 2019, seven of those eight positions had turned over at least once.
The high-level departures continued through 2018 and 2019 with more senior members of the NSC departing and serial turnover across many of these positions: four National Security Advisers, six Deputy National Security Advisers, three Chiefs of Staff and Executive Secretaries, three senior Intelligence Directors….
On Friday, January 17, 2020, Andrew Peek was escorted from the White House grounds pending a security-related investigation. It may be that the NSC will soon be in search of a third Director of Europe and Russia in a single year and the fourth occupant overall.
This extraordinary rate of high-level turnover concomitantly causes a cascade of departures in less senior jobs, as incoming successors seek to staff their office with hand-picked associates.
The combination of high turnover, major staff cuts, and new leadership have truly crippled the role of the NSC. Just the past five months have witnessed the significant role of senior NSC staff in the Ukrainian aid scandal and subsequent impeachment process. In addition, the recent killing of Iranian General Qasim Soleimani and bungled explanation have drawn even more attention to the role of the NSC. The inability to coordinate a consistent message, let alone a single message, for why the U.S. ordered the death demonstrates the absence of staff influential enough to have prepared for the aftermath of such a momentous and consequential action. Working at such a disadvantage alongside an impulsive president who consistently shows disdain for expertise, collaboration and debate poses a risk to the country at large.

9 January
House approves measure limiting Trump’s authority to take further military action against Iran
The 224 to 194 vote fell largely along party lines, with only three Republicans and Republican-turned-independent Justin Amash (Mich.) voting for the resolution from Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.). Eight Democrats opposed the measure, which instructs Trump “to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran or any part of its government or military” unless Congress has made a declaration of war or there is “an imminent armed attack upon the United States.”
The vote comes just a day after the administration’s top national security officials met with lawmakers behind closed doors to discuss the intelligence and decision-making that informed Trump’s order to kill top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani. … Democrats and a handful of Republicans emerged from those briefings so frustrated by the administration’s refusal to fully engage Congress that it fueled new momentum behind efforts to restrain Trump’s actions as commander in chief when it comes to Iran.

6 January
Trump claims his ‘Media Posts’ on Twitter now count as official notification to Congress about any plans to attack Iran
(Business Insider) President Donald Trump claimed on Sunday that his tweets now count as official notification to Congress about the US military’s plans to attack Iran.
There is no basis for Trump’s claim, because tweets do not constitute official congressional notification.
while the president is not legally mandated to consult with Congress when a military action is deemed an emergency, only Congress has the constitutional authority to declare war. Previous presidents have also almost always consulted with a tight group of congressional leaders known as the Gang of 8 on issues of national security.
The debate over executive authority vs. legislative power in wartime reignited on Friday. … Since then, Trump has thrown gasoline on the fire by threatening to attack Iranian cultural sites if Iran retaliates — a move that could constitute a war crime.
Who Is Jared Kushner?
The Kushner family history—from lying on immigration forms to becoming major Democratic donors—often seems at odds with the initiatives Jared supports in his father-in-law’s Administration.
By Andrea Bernstein

4 January
Congress, Stop President Trump’s Rush to War With Iran
Republican senators are the only people with the power to restrain the president.
(NYT Editorial board) Several lawmakers are working on a resolution barring the White House from escalating the conflict without Congressional blessing. While appropriate, such efforts to rein in executive war-making powers have proved insufficient since the 9/11 attacks. That’s why it is crucial that influential Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell remind Mr. Trump of his promise to keep America out of foreign quagmires and keep Mr. Trump from stumbling further into war with Iran.
The President has listened to them in the past, and has reason — with his impeachment trial nearing in the Senate — to fear them as well.
American Foreign Policy Is Broken. Suleimani’s Killing Proves It.
A properly functioning National Security Council would never have let it happen, for good reason.
By By Jonathan Stevenson, senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
(NYT) Mr. Trump did not bother to consult congressional leaders. As with his other displays of martial fiat, his immediate impulse was probably to shock the liberal domestic audience, vicariously make himself feel tough, and assert raw executive power by going around the normal channels of decision making.
Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had considered taking out General Suleimani but rejected it — not for lack of nerve, but for fear of undue escalation and an unnecessary war with Iran. The fundamental facts on the ground have not changed, and in the kind of robust interagency, national security decision-making process that the National Security Council staff is supposed to supervise, such concerns would have been systematically raised, dissected and discussed, and a consensus reached to inform presidential action. No such process seems to have occurred here. …
The National Security Council would have undoubtedly asked the intelligence community for a detailed assessment of Iran’s possible responses to the strike. Analysts would have underscored the inevitability of lethal attacks on Americans and American interests: terrorist attacks on embassies or other civilian or military facilities in the Middle East and farther afield, military escalation on the ground in Syria or Iraq, cyberattacks, the closing of the Strait of Hormuz, Hezbollah attacks on Israel, further operations targeting Gulf States’ oil infrastructure, and accelerating movement toward nuclear breakout. …
The killing of General Suleimani arose outside of any coherent policy context, and without adequate contemplation of near- or long-term strategic consequences. Mr. Trump’s move looks like either an impetuous act of self-indulgence or, somewhat more probable, a calculated attempt to bury his domestic political troubles. Whatever the precise reason, the act itself is irreversible, and will have serious consequences — precisely why it merited the systematic deliberation that it clearly did not receive.

In Era of Perpetual Conflict, a Volatile President Grabs Expanded Powers to Make War
(NYT) …it is just the latest example of the capricious way in which the president, as commander in chief, has chosen to flex his lethal powers. … There have been attempts by lawmakers in recent years to limit the president’s abilities to wage new or expanded wars based on the authorities Congress granted in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks. But with little support from leaders of both parties on Capitol Hill, those efforts have generally gone nowhere.

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