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A Not-So-Innocent Abroad

President Donald Trump’s second official foreign tour hasn’t yet gotten to the juicy part, which will be today’s long-awaited face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but it’s already generating plenty of news.
The trip shrewdly began in Poland, where Trump could expect a much-needed welcoming reception. Poles have been favorably inclined to Republican American presidents since at least the days of Ronald Reagan, whose staunch cold warrior stance did much to liberate Poland from the the totalitarian rule of the Soviet Union, and these days their government has a nationalist and protectionist and anti-immigration bent and is waging a war on the local media that make it all the more inclined to embrace such a Republican as Trump. With fans bused in from the Polish hinterlands, Trump delivered a scripted oration denouncing Russian meddling in Ukraine and elsewhere that revved up a huge Polish crowd and confounded the American media.
There was a brief news conference with the American media, though, and of course there were questions about the Russia thing with Trump and Russia that has been a bigger story here than it’s probably been in Poland. Standing next to the Polish head of state, Trump reiterated his view that no matter what his intelligence agencies say Russia might or might not have meddled in the past election to Trump’s benefit, and that if they did it was all the fault of President Barack Obama for letting it happen, and besides everyone does it, and we’re not sure how that will play. There’s no telling what the Poles will make of it, especially when you take into account the press crackdowns on fake news we’ve been reading about, but here in the states all of the putatively fake but still-free press was highlighting that Trump seemed more concerned about Putin’s meddling in Ukraine than his meddling in America’s past election.
All of which makes today’s face-to-face and officially bi-lateral meeting with Putin all the juicier, of course, and it was already juicy enough. That robustly anti-Russian speech Trump gave to the adoring Polish crowd included a robust and widely applauded affirmation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s mutual defense clause, which was conspicuously absent from his big oration on his first European and clearly annoyed all our western European NATO allies, but the following press conference probably exacerbated their more general annoyance. Most of those NATO allies have lately survived challenges by the same nationalist and protectionist and anti-immigration impulses that have lately prevailed in Poland in America, and have come up with some proposed globalist free trade arrangements that leave America out and rival the economic clout of the North American Free Trade Agreement that Trump has threatened to dissolve, so the geo-political and global economic implications of that Putin meeting are pretty darned complicated.
If you’ve been following the fake-or-not coverage of that whole Russia thing with Trump and Russia, it’s exponentially more complicated yet. Russia has lately been joining with China to propose that America abandon a longstanding alliance against with South Korea against the North Korean government that just launched a missile test that might deliver a nuclear strike against Alaska, and Trump had plenty of things to say about both regimes during his campaign, all of which have been changed since, so todays big meeting will be damned juicy.
The meeting with Putin will take place in Germany as part of the G-20 summit of the world’s twenty biggest economies, and Trump can’t expect such a friendly reception. There are already angry and violent protests against the globalist world order, which are too angry and stupid to realize that Trump is a sort-of ally, and of course all the establishment types of western Europe have a lingering disdain for Trump since his last foreign trip. There’s little chance that Trump will charm or bully Putin into abandoning North Korea, less chance that he’ll take a firm stand with Putin to defuse all that domestic talk about the Russia thing with Trump and Russia, and no chance at all he’ll come home to the heroic welcome he found in Poland.
The best-case scenario is the least juicy, with Trump and Putin having a boring feeling-out meeting that is full of sound and fury yet signifying nothing, but given the personalities involved that seems unlikely.

— Bud Norman

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This is the “This Week” That Was

Last week’s Democratic National Convention seems to have “bounced” nominee Hillary Clinton back into a slight lead in Real Clear Politics’ average of all the polls, and over the weekend Republican nominee Donald J. Trump got off to an awful start on “This Week.”
For those of you who are either in bed or heading to church during the program, which are the only two places any self-respecting person would be at such an ungodly time, “This Week” is the American Broadcasting Company’s version of those oh-so-serious Sunday morning political shows. It’s hosted by George Stephanopolous, a former Clinton family consigliere who never quite got over the habit, and Republicans have long groused with considerable justification that he strives to make them look stupid. Trump, alas, made the job all too easy.
The interview starts promisingly enough, with Trump boasting that his acceptance speech drew more viewers than Clinton’s, and gloating that “I have one of the great temperaments” and that it is such a “winning temperament” that it beat 16 Republican challengers while Clinton has a “bad temperament” that is such a “weak temperament” that it could barely beat a self-described socialist such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Things started going downhill, though, when Stephanopolous asked “What exactly is your relationship with Vladimir Putin?”
Rather than accusing Stephanopolous of asking a loaded and entirely unfair irrelevant question that is so typical of the biased “lame stream” media, which would have been hard for even Trump to do with a straight face, Trump answered that “I have no relationship with him.” Which of course allowed Stephanoplous to mention the three separate occasions when Trump had boasted that he did have a relationship with Putin, to which Trump offered the explanation that “Because he has said some nice things about me over the years. I remember years ago, he said something — many years ago, he said something very nice about me. I said something good about him when Larry King was on. This was a long time ago, and I said he is a tough cookie or something to that effect.” When Stephanopolous was once again so rude as to mention those three more recent public occasions when Trump did boast of speaking with Putin during their appearance on the same “60 Minutes” episode, Trump acknowledged that their separate interviews on the program were conducted on different sides of the world and demanded to know “What do you call a relationship?”
Asked about the Democrats’ criticism of Trump’s recent statements that he would not necessarily honor America’s North American Treaty Organization obligations, and might recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Trump explained that “They only fear one thing, losing the election.” He explained his remarks on Crimea by saying “I’m not going to be mean to anybody. George, you know me pretty well. I don’t bow,” and clarified his position on NATO by saying “I’m all in favor of NATO. I said NATO is obsolete,” and then claimed credit for the organization’s anti-terrorism stance. Asked why a call for arming Ukrainian rebels to resist Russian occupation was dropped from the Republican platform, Trump insisted he was not involved but admitted that his people were.
At which point the interview went even further awry.
“Well, look, you know, I have my own ideas,” Trump said. “(Putin’s) not going into Ukraine, OK? Just so you understand, he’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down and you can put it down, you can take it anywhere you want.” To which Stephanopolous reasonably asked, with a rather stunned look on his face, “Well, he’s already there, isn’t he?” Trump had a rather stunned look on his own face when confronted with this well-known and indisputable fact, but recovered well enough to say “OK, well, he’s there in a certain way, but I’m not there yet.”
This was followed by a critique of the Obama administration’s Russian policy, which is indeed a ripe target for a counter-attack, but it’s hard to imagine any other Republican in the history of the party making a bigger mess of it. Pretty much any other Republican in the history of the party would have noted that Obama and the Secretary of State who is now the Democratic nominee had betrayed our Polish and Czech allies by reneging on a missile-defense treaty and then offered that ridiculous “reset” button and promised on a hot mic to offer even greater “flexibility” in a second term, which clearly encouraged Russia’s recent revanchism, and even wound up selling Russia a big chunk of America’s uranium reserves shortly after a couple of generous contributions to the past Secretary of State and current Democratic nominee’s phony-baloney “family foundation,” all of which Trump neglected to mention. Pretty much any other Republican wouldn’t be bogged down by Trump’s even friendlier policy pronouncements, though, or his own sizable contributions to that phony-baloney “family foundation,” or his instinct to link the failures of the Obama administration to that free-loading bunch of bums in a NATO pact that Trump is all in favor of and has said is obsolete.
As bad as it was, the Russo-American issue wasn’t even the part of the interview that generated the worst press of the weekend. Trump was also asked to respond to a speech given at the Democratic convention by Kzir Khan, the father of a Muslim Army Captain who died fighting for America in the Iraq War, who had criticized Trump’s call for a ban on Muslim immigrants. Pretty much any other Republican would have gratefully acknowledged the family’s sacrifice, and respectfully made the case that American policy must nevertheless realistically assess the costs and benefits of admitting large numbers of Muslim immigrants that will surely include less patriotic sorts. Pretty much none of them would speculate that the father’s speech had been written for him, or gratuitously note how the fallen soldier’s mother had stood silently by her husband during his speech, or add that “She probably — maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say,” and certainly none would have compared their efforts to get rich to the sacrifice of a Gold Star family.
There was also a claim that the National Football League had written a letter to Trump expressing their concerns about the presidential debate schedule, which the NFL promptly denied, and which will probably be more widely noted than any of the rest of it because the NFL is such a big deal. All in all, this week got off to a bad start for Trump on “This Week.”

— Bud Norman

Friends and Enemies and Their Proper Treatment

There was little mention of it in the American press, which was understandably preoccupied with the the president’s executive orders regarding illegal immigration and the upcoming race riot in Missouri and other pressing domestic matters, but last week President Barack Obama thoroughly annoyed Australia.
En route back from China’s Asia-Pacific conference, where he’d grandly announced a deal with the host country that would reduce America’s carbon emissions in exchange for a guffawed promise that in 16 years the Chinese would consider doing the same pointless damage to their own economy, Obama stopped his jetliner in Australia to continue his efforts against anthropogenic global warming. During a speech in Brisbane that was added at the last minute to the president’s schedule he made repeated references to climate change, spoke in worried tones about the ecological health of the Great Barrier Reef, and.seemed to criticize Australia for inefficient use of energy. Australians, the vast majority of whom recently voted in a conservative government because of the depressing economic effects of the previous government’s cap-and-trade policies, and who have taken expensive steps to ensure the ecological health of the Great Barrier Reef, and whose fondness for their freedom of mobility around their vast empty country can only be explained by the “Mad Max” movies, understandably took it as an insult. One of the big Australian newspapers found that the American embassy staff had advised against the speech, reported that the Australian Prime Minister and other officials were not given the usual diplomatic courtesy of an advance copy, and noted that “Historians of the US-Australia relationship are unable to nominate a case of a visiting president making such a hostile speech for the host government.”
Such disrespect for America’s most stalwart allies has been a consistent trait of the Obama administration. It started with his decision to return a bust of Sir Winston Churchill to Great Britain and honor its queen with an I-pod full of his own speeches, then went on with the reneging on a missile defense deal with Poland and the Czech Republic, continued through the undiplomatic treatment and anonymously foul-mouthed descriptions of Israel’s Prime Minister, and is still playing out over the XL Keystone Pipeline and a conspicuously nit-picky enforcement of the norther border and other petty issues with Canada, among numerous other examples. The “open hands” and “reset buttons” have been reserved for such adversaries as the Iranians and Russians, who have benefitted greatly such friendliness while offering little in return but bomb-making and land-grabbing trouble, which seems a peculiar way to conduct a foreign policy.
At this late point in his presidency, however, Obama seems to care little about public opinion in any country except perhaps the ones where he hopes to redistribute the west’s wealth. The same cap-and-trade policies that the Australians rejected were also rejected by America’s Congress even when Nancy Pelosi was Speaker of the House and Harry Reid controlled a supermajority in the Senate, but Obama continues to impose as much of them as he can through executive action. The long delays in construction of the XL Keystone Pipeline that are infuriating the Canadian government are also infuriating the American public, but expect a veto that will bring at least another two year’s delay. An executive order to stop enforcing America’s immigration laws for an estimated five million illegal aliens is proving so widely unpopular that even such formerly steadfast supporters as the black American punditry and the “Saturday Night Live” writing staff are critical, but he seems ready to defend it to the point of a politically advantageous government shutdown. If the Australians feel insulted by the president’s blatant disregard for their opinions, at least they have some idea how Americans feel.

— Bud Norman

When the Story Goes Awry

That swap of five high-ranking terrorists for a sergeant isn’t proving the public relations bonanza that President Barack Obama expected. We must confess our surprise that it’s even turning out to be a public relations debacle, as we’d predicted the media would play along with the heartwarming tale of an American boy returned to the warm embrace of his family and small Idaho town, and we can only imagine very taken aback Obama must be.
The heartwarming tale seemed promising when Obama trotted it out on Sunday at the White House with the soldier’s grateful parents by his side, with the photo opportunities of a mother and child reunion and the hero’s homecoming in the Frank Capraesque small Idaho town scheduled to overcome any coldhearted calculations about the wisdom of dealing with terrorists and releasing dangerous war criminals and flouting a law the president had signed in the process, but it all started to fall apart as soon as the anti-American crazy-pants dad with the Taliban beard started took to the podium with the presidential seal and started reciting Koranic verses in Arabic and Pashto. Within hours even such usually reliable media as CNN, CBS, National Public Radio, and the American Broadcasting System were reporting that the rescued son had also expressed similarly anti-American crazy-pants opinions before wandering off base in his civvies, complete with quotes from just about everyone in the son’s platoon that the son was a “deserter at best and traitor at worst.” Other media soon reported at at least six men died in the resulting search, all of whom also had mothers who could provide compelling quotes to the Fox Network and other of the more aggressive outlets, and some suggested that the son even aided the enemy while he was what his father described as a “guest” of the enemy combatants. There were also stories about the terrorists being released, one of them wanted for war crimes by the same World Court that the lefties always want to hand Dick Cheney, and some unhelpful photos of them being welcomed as heroes by the terror networks that were claiming great victory. The Washington Post did its best to cast the anti-American crazy-pants dad in a sympathetic light, and a plucky columnist for The Daily Beast tried mightily to be offended by all the hubbub, and the same National Security Advisor Susan Rice who’d peddled the bogus Benghazi story while United Ambassador was going on the record that the son had served “with honor and distinction,” but for the most part the press was awful.
By Tuesday the conventionally wise The Hill was declaring that “Prisoner swap blows up on White House,” the same Time Magazine that once portrayed Obama as Franklin Roosevelt was reporting that the highest-ups at the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies were washing their hands and covering their behinds over the matter, the small town parade and its promising optics had been cancelled, and Democratic Senators facing re-election were going far off-script. Things got so bad that administration officials were apologizing to California Sen. Diane Feinstein for not giving her early notice of the deal, although they didn’t go so far as to apologize for breaking the law by not seeking Senate approval, probably because they knew that even the likes of Sen. Diane Feinstein would have balked at such a lopsided swap of five high-ranking terrorists for a deserter, and the apologists were working on a new narrative.
The best argument they’re likely to come up with is that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl might well by an anti-American crazy-pants deserter at best and traitor at worst, but that he’s ours and must be brought home to whatever fate awaits here even at the high cost of releasing dangerous terrorists. There might even be some merit to it, but it’s a hard to settle for after the high hopes of that story about the American hero being returned to the loving arms of his parents and proud hometown, especially after inviting an anti-American crazy-pants dad to recite Koranic verse at the podium with the presidential seal. Obama seemed pleased to be in Poland on Tuesday, where he looked very tough posing next to some F-16s that were intended as a stern warning to Russia’s Vladimir Putin or any other anti-American crazy-pants leaders looking to expand their territories. That’s a promising narrative, too, and the press might well get back on board for it, but Putin and the rest of them are probably more convinced by the sad story about the prisoner swap.

— Bud Norman

The Hillary Show

Popularity has always been a most perplexing phenomenon. As far back as our school days we noticed that the most popular boys were often arrogant jerks, the most popular girls often vain flibbertigibbets. Since then we have frequently been confounded by the box office success of silly sci-fi shoot-‘em-ups, the vast viewerships of inane sit-coms, the rock star status of talentless caterwaulers, and of course the presidential preferences of the past two electoral majorities.
Even after so many years of proud membership in the minority of opinion, however, we were downright flummoxed upon reading a Quinnipiac poll showing that Hillary Clinton is “easily the most popular actor on the American political stage.” We could understand on an intellectual level that our well-liked classmates were at least good-looking and possessed of a certain manipulative charm, those insipid sci-fi flicks and television shows had an understandable appeal to people who prefer to stop thinking during their leisure, the hot bands provided a seductively simple beat, and the president had the good fortune to be running against Republicans, but there seems to be no accounting at all for the popularity of Hillary Clinton.
Certainly nothing in Clinton’s recently-completed term as Secretary of State justifies her good standing with the public. A partial list of her acts includes backing a Marxist coup in Honduras, the betrayal of our Czech and Polish allies on a missile defense agreement, an obsequious and inept courtship of our Russian adversary, a similarly supine relationship with our Chinese creditors, praising Syria’s brutal dictator as a “reformer,” hastening the ouster of a generally reliable friend and the installation of a radical Islamist government in Egypt, ineffectual entreaties to Iran about its on-going nuclear weapons program, as well as an ill-conceived war against Libya. There was also the incompetence that led to the deaths of four brave Americans in Libya in the aftermath of that unauthorized Libyan war, as well as the dishonest scapegoating of an obscure American filmmaker that followed. If there is any portion of the world where America’s prestige and strategic position has improved over the past four years, except perhaps the salons of the European intelligentsia, we can not readily identify it.
Nor can we find anything in Clinton’s long career as a public figure that explains her apparent appeal to the public. Her brief time as a Senator was marked by her outspoken support for the subprime lending policies that led to the crash of ’08, some partisan bomb-throwing, and no legislative accomplishments of note. Her earlier role as First Lady is remembered for her mysteriously lost records in the Whitewater scandal, a failed attempt to socialize the American health care system, and her ridiculous claims of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” to explain her husband’s philandering.
As a feminist icon she has been an embarrassment to the sisterhood. Going all the way back to hear earliest days as a lawyer Clinton’s career has been due to her willingness to silently endure the humiliation of her husband’s serial infidelities, and her complete lack of accomplishments in her many posts is the proof of nepotism. The only sexual double-standard that has come into play has been in her favor, as any man whose spouse had so publicly betrayed him would mocked as a cuckold and laughed off the public stage.
One might chalk up Clinton’s enviable poll numbers to an ineffable likeability, but she seems to have none. A dour, self-righteous woman whose only sense of humor is expressed by an occasional sneering cackle, Clinton is clearly a ruthless sort lacking in any warmth. Such a bare knuckle persona might endear her to the hard left, but one shudders to think there might be enough of them to explain her high favorability ratings.
Our best guess is that the Hillary Clinton reality show has had such a long run on television that the public has grown accustomed to her increasingly haggard face, and embraces her for the same strange reason they seem to enjoy the antics of all the other unremarkable people who have attained unearned celebrity. This is only a guess, though, and if we had any real ability to explain such odd popularity we would likely be given a more remunerative job as a network programmer.

— Bud Norman