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Today's commentary on Trump

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Doyle McManus is a highly respected journalist and the LA Times correspondent covering Washington, D.C.  Here is today's column in the LA Times.  Seems to sum things up pretty succinctly, to me.




Trump's downward spiral


Doyle McManus


When Donald Trump was elected president six months ago, his supporters thought he’d soon grow into the job. He’d surround himself with smart people, listen carefully to their advice, and run his administration with the efficiency of a successful businessman. That seems a long time ago. Trump hasn’t grown, and now we’re seeing the consequences.


In domestic affairs, the president assembled a staff of family members, ideologues and hangers-on, some competent, others not, that quickly divided into warring factions jostling for a snippet of his short attention span.


In foreign policy, he appointed some of the nation’s best and brightest, such as national security advisor H.R. McMaster, but it’s not clear how much of their advice he actually absorbs.


The result is an administration that has lurched from one crisis to another.

Take the controversy over the intelligence Trump divulged to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov when they met in the Oval Office last week.


Trump’s unintended intelligence leak fits into a broader pattern of general incompetence, compounded by hubris.


According to the Washington Post, the president recounted intelligence reports that the Islamic State has devised a “thin bomb” hidden inside a laptop computer. (That wasn’t a secret.)


“I get great intel,” Trump bragged to Lavrov, according to the Post. In the newspaper’s account, he went on to tell the visiting Russians just enough — including the city where the information originated — to enable a smart spy service to deduce the source.


That’s a problem — compounded by the fact that the intelligence came from a friendly foreign intelligence government (later identified by the New York Times as Israel), and wasn’t Trump’s to give away. The White House even had to warn the CIA that Trump might have blown a foreign government’s secret.


There’s far more at stake here than the etiquette of information-sharing among friends. The United States depends heavily on foreign governments for on-the-ground espionage against terrorists in the Middle East.


“The cost for us, just on the intelligence level, is the likelihood that we won’t get similar information again — at least for a little while,” former CIA officer Paul Pillar told Vox. “Foreign partners will say, my goodness, even if we’re given assurances of how carefully our information will be used, as long we’ve got this guy at the top who does this sort of thing, those U.S. assurances don’t mean very much.”


The larger issue is that Trump’s unintended intelligence leak fits into a broader pattern of general incompetence, compounded by hubris.


"He is very inexperienced; this is an absolutely new world to him," former CIA Director Michael Hayden said on CNN. "If I fault him for anything, it's not that he's inexperienced. He doesn't have humility in the face of his inexperience.


“Here is a president who does not seem to prepare in detail, is a bit disdainful, even contemptuous of the normal processes of government,” Hayden said. “[He] seems to go into these encounters with, frankly, an unjustified self-confidence in the ability of his person to make these things come out right.”


Thus does each of Trump’s missteps — his bungled ban on immigration from Muslim countries, his confused proposals on healthcare and tax policy, plus the controversies surrounding the firings of Michael Flynn and James B. Comey—create a growing crisis. The latest wrinkle, on Tuesday, was the news that Trump asked Comey to end the FBI investigation of Flynn, according to notes Comey made in February. (By the time you read this, a new revelation may have succeeded that one.)


In private, Republicans in Congress have grumbled for weeks about a White House that doesn’t know what it’s doing. Now they’re beginning to do the grumbling in public.


Incompetence erodes support for a president in his own party, even among people who generally agree with his policy views. (See: George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina.)


"They are in a downward spiral right now,” said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who was one of the people Trump considered as a potential vice president and who, until now, had been the gentlest of critics. "The chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline is creating … a worrisome environment," Corker said.


Republican chieftains who would normally be duty-bound to defend their president were mostly silent this time — or, in the case of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, acerbic.


“I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House,” McConnell said.


Trump has created his own troubles, and they are far from over. Republicans are joining Democrats in asking for tape recordings of White House meetings (whose existence the president hinted at in a tweet) and, now, a transcript of what he told the Russians. He’s renewed his war with U.S. intelligence agencies, accusing them of leaking secrets to undermine him — a gambit that rarely ends well.


The president’s supporters, echoing Hayden, say he doesn’t mean any harm. Some of his actions have appeared careless, they acknowledge. He’s still learning the job, they say. And he is, in truth, surrounded by adversaries.


But as examples of carelessness multiply, the ranks of Trump’s critics will swell. And they’ll begin, soon, to point out that carelessness isn’t much of an excuse. Not for a man whose job description, right there in the Constitution, says his first duty is to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”





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Seems to be a well-done report, almost restrained one might say. It will be interesting to see what comes of the Russians' offer to provide a transcript of the White House meeting. I'd love to see both teams, US and Russia, release theirs simultaneously and check what the differences might be.

If items were discussed that were classified, the President might skate through, as he is the top of the US classification food chain. But if the items from a foreign country's intelligence service are classified NOFORN by way of an international treaty, that might throw a monkey wrench into the works -- treaties are the bailiwick of Congress.

Either way, Mr. Trump has created for himself a nightmare. He could sure use with a convenient North Korean distraction.


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The United States is for sale, at least with the present Trumpian business model. I can't get over people thinking Trump is a great businessman. Six bankruptcies to cover his ass and the loss of millions of dollars of other people's money. Is this what he has planned for our country?

On a darker note: the U.S. State Department is denying visas to Chechen gay men trying to avoid kidnapping and murder. (article on Buzzfeed) All the while Jared Kushner and his company are selling visas for half a million to Chinese individuals in their touring revival show aimed at businessmen with too much money. Trump has his fingerprints all over this one.


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It appears that intelligence analysts in at least three countries have been instructed to remove 'origin and strength' information from reports before they are passed to US intelligence services. Yes, the CIA and NSA will still be getting the same intelligence but they will not now know how much weight to put on it. It is one thing to read "our agent in Damascus has ... ", quite another to read "a report has ..." Unfortunately for the next few years the latter is probably all US Intelligence is going to get, which is going to make the US a lot less safe. 

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Now that Trump has gone soft on Islam, kissing ass across the Middle East this week, I suppose the following is considered acceptable behavior:



The foreign excursion currently underway with Trump and his cabal of advisors is a disgusting display of greed, and how the New Amerika will embrace anyone for a dollar. No matter that Saudi interests have funded ISIS from the beginning, all is now forgiven because...because ISIS is evil just like Iran.

The new ignorance in this foreign policy is astounding. Indonesia needs to feel the pressure of an economic boycott, and besides, they make lousy clothing for the American market. But their version of Sharia law is dead set against homosexual behavior between adults while they manage to overlook their huge market in child sex. 

Can't touch a woman before marriage but you can have all the anal rape of boys you want. This is not uncommon in Muslim countries, just ask a soldier returned from Afghanistan. The hypocrisy of this New Amerika, a supposed Christian nation, turning a blind eye to human rights violations propagated in Islamic countries is disgusting. This week is just another nail in Trump's coffin. 

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