Nel's New Day

February 7, 2017

Bannon Runs U.S. While Unhappy Trump Takes Heat

“Trump has skin thinner than his wife and an ego bigger than my ass,” Helen Philpot wrote on her insightful blog to her friend Margaret. At the same time, Donald Trump (DDT), who desperately needs accolades, suffers from popular culture’s ridicule and criticism. Comedians’ humor and magazine covers’ condemnation highlight the elevation of DDT’s chief strategist to de facto President of the United States.

In two memorable skits from Saturday Night Live last weekend, the one featuring Melissa McCarthy as Press Secretary Sean Spicer was a particular embarrassment to DDT because he hates weakness—and women, to DDT, are weak. Even worse for DDT, allies found the representation to be accurate. After McCarthy’s success, Rosie O’Donnell has offered to play Steve Bannon on SNL.

alec-baldwin-bannonAnother SNL skit last week portrayed Bannon as the Grim Reaper who pulls the strings for DDT’s actions. Playing DDT, Alec Baldwin alienates leaders of U.S. allies, and the Bannon character says, “It was just according to plan.” The Bannon figure moves to the president’s desk at the end of the skit while the DDT character becomes child-sized.

trevor-noahHarsher than SNL, Trevor Noah played “Who’s the Real President” on The Daily Show. His pick is, of course, Steve Bannon. Noah used the Bannon image on the Time cover as evidence that “even the ‘dishonest media’ recognizes that Bannon is the ‘real power behind the throne.’” Time titled Bannon as “The Great Manipulator.”

der-spiegelIn the past, DDT has (falsely) bragged about his appearances on the cover of Time. Thus far he hasn’t tweeted anything about his image on the cover of Der Spiegel with the words “America First.” The artwork shows how the United States is rising to the top—by beheading Lady Liberty.

der-spiegel-2-ny-daily-newsThis cover is a classier version of the New York Daily Post illustration in December 2015 after DDT first called for a complete ban on Muslims “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

 

cover-economistThe cover of The Economist, illustrated an unusually radical editorial:

 

“The bleak cadence of last month’s inauguration was still in the air when Donald Trump lobbed the first Molotov cocktail of policies and executive orders against the capital’s brilliant-white porticos. He has not stopped…. His grenade-chuckers-in-chief, Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller, have now carried that logic into government… The secrecy and confusion of the immigration ban are a sign not of failure, but of how his people shun the self-serving experts who habitually subvert the popular will. Trump’s politics of conflict extends, of course, to foreign policy, and that is where they see serious problems looming.

“A web of bilateralism and a jerry-rigged regionalism are palpably worse for America than the world Mr. Trump inherited. It is not too late for him to conclude how much worse, to ditch his bomb-throwers and switch course. The world should hope for that outcome. But it must prepare for trouble.”

MSNBC Joe Scarborough, known for his campaign support for DDT, broadcast a clip of the Alec Baldwin skit and the cover from Time on The Morning Joe Show. During his monologue, he asked if Bannon was “calling the shots.” An hour later, DDT tweeted:

“I call my own shots, largely based on an accumulation of data, and everyone knows it.”

Not everyone. The day before the tweet, Madeleine Albright, secretary of State for Bill Clinton, told CNN that she assumed Bannon was “the person that’s pulling the strings.” Other pundits and politicians have suggested the same idea.

DDT’s ego is suffering from the belief that he is not in control and the fact that a mere member of his staff has taken the place on Time that he thinks should belong to him. A White House source said, “I assume President Trump was not pleased with the Time cover, because that is reserved for Donald Trump.” Trump-supporter and GOP strategist John Feehery said, “Any time you have staff members on the cover of Time magazine, that’s a problem.”

trump-bannon-big-boyBannon’s presidential duties include writing vague, confusing executive orders with no professional vetting, ones that DDT sometimes signs without reading them. A prime example is the one that put Bannon on the National Security Council while removing career military and intelligence people. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence are allowed to attend only when issues concern their “direct areas of responsibilities.” Crazy torturer Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor, stayed.

Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said, “This is a ‘Holy Crap’ moment.” One of these happened with Bannon’s involvement in the disastrous Yemen raid that killed a Navy Seal and many civilian women and children but leaving its target, Al Qaeda Leader Qassim Al-Rimi, still alive and taunting DDT.

Sen. Susan Collin (R-ME) said:

“What I’m concerned about is the president’s executive order reorganizing the NSC in a way that removes the director of national intelligence, the only person who can provide a comprehensive overview of intelligence on a policy issue, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the only one who has the comprehensive view of the military consequences of a particular policy from the principal’s committee.”

The danger of Steve Bannon as president goes far beyond his ignorance. His goal, according to past writings and speeches, is to put the United States in the midst of a global war using DDT as “a blunt instrument for us,” possibly the white supremacists. Bannon has been praised for his similarity to Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s favorite propagandist and his racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, and Islamophobic voice.

Bannon’s friends have cited his aggression and obsession with war and aggression as he looks forward to social chaos, the purpose of his executive orders. His goal is to demolish the United States and recreate a Tea Party-led version of the Bolshevik Revolution. He has predicted that He predicts that “we’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict.” Despite Bannon’s hatred for Islam, that he calls the “most radical” religion in the world, the Middle East isn’t Bannon’s only warring focus; he also aims at “war in the South China Sea.” He also wants to depose Germany’s Angela Merkel to create a white supremacy in Europe.

In Bannon’s attack on the free press, he described the media as a “fifth column,” defined as a group that fights for a nation’s enemies. The position parallels the actions of dictators and tyrants who manipulate by “owning” information through “alternative facts” by scattering doubt and confusion about truth. Toward that end, Bannon persuades people that he opposes the “elites” who work in media. He said:

“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while. I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

Bannon found satisfaction in the turmoil and condemnation of the Muslim ban that raised huge protests and media attention. He sees the publicity as a PR win. It was Bannon’s decision “to include green card holders in the president’s temporary ban on travel from Muslim countries,” according to Raw Story’s David Edwards. Vanity Fair’s Emily Jane Fox pointed out that Bannon responsible for “fuel(ing) Trump’s firefight with the media, discrediting and undermining the mainstream voices opposed to his anti-immigrant and anti-trade agenda.”

bannon-trumpJust as DDT refused to repudiate the Ku Klux Klan, he has refused to condemn Bannon’s Islamophobic remarks and sent a message to white supremacists the he’s on their side. DDT has been delighted to pass his presidential obligations to someone else because of his short attention span and no interest in public policy. His specialty is marketing shady real estate deals and making money off declaring bankruptcy. All he wants is to preen in front of hand-picked crowds that approve of his boorish behavior and make up information that has no reality in real life. Whenever he finds himself criticized, he angrily tweets and then leads the crowds into another diversion before he calls another country’s leader to alienate them.

A question is how long Bannon will last with constant derision of Bannon’s control. And how close to the sun will hubris take Bannon and DDT before they fall into the sea, just as Icarus did in Greek mythology.

October 22, 2012

Presidential Debate Three

Those who watched all three presidential debates in the last few weeks have now seen four different debaters. After the first debate, commentators discussed how remote President Obama was while Mitt Romney attacked him. Talking with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show,  even the president laughed at himself about having slept through the debate. Viewers of the second debate saw much more combat with Romney coming out as a greater bully than the first one because President Obama pointed out his opponent’s “fact-challenged” statements. The same president showed up tonight, but a different Romney—quiet, agreeable, middle-of-the-road, and meek, almost pathetic—decided to attend. This new Romney didn’t push the moderator, Bob Schieffer, to get more time.

As far as fact-checking, Romney slipped in a few of his standard lies such as creating 12 million jobs (which has already been debunked by the conservative Washington Post) and accusing the president of making an “apology tour” when soon after his inauguration (which the president pointed out had been debunked by every fact checkers).

But the majority of Romney’s “lies” were in agreeing with the president in almost all the policies after having opposed them. He wants to leave Afghanistan in 2014, help women gain equality in foreign countries, use drones—the list goes on and on. The man who ridiculed the president for wanting to heal the planet now stressed that he wanted peace across the planet—a dozen times.

Romney even supported the president in forcing Mubarak out of Egypt, an action that he had earlier criticized. Six days ago, Romney almost turned purple when he talked about the president’s failure in the attack on Benghazi; tonight he just looked benevolent during the discussion about Libya.

Probably realizing that he knew little about foreign policy, Romney avoided looking like a radical, settling for occasional sniping. President Obama stressed the idea that the U.S. needs a careful, thoughtful approach toward foreign policy and should proceed in a strong, steadfast manner instead of the “reckless” manner that Romney has proposed.

Although Romney obviously did some studying before the debate, he had a bit of problem with his geography. He said, “Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.” In fact, Iran not only has a large southern coastline with access to the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman but also no land border with Syria.

Roger Simon’s description of the event was right on target: “Romney wasn’t terrible. But he was on the defensive for much of the evening, a fine sheen of sweat popped put on his forehead long before the debate ended, and – – worst of all – – Romney was repeatedly forced to say he agreed with Obama on policy after policy.”

Both candidates used the tactic of counting in many of the answers. Some undecided voters had earlier stated that they liked Romney’s “five-point plan” despite the lack of any details in these five points. They also said that they didn’t know what the president stood for so he took great care tonight in not only being high specific but also counting off all the items in a series.

People who know Romney’s past positions (like those he espoused last week!) realized that he had reversed himself in almost all of his positions. But I wondered how those less familiar with his past statements would react. One Republican pundit described him as reasonable, thoughtful, presidential, and circumspect with a reset to more traditional style of Republican policy.

The early polls erased much of my concerns that watchers would swallow Romney’s statements. CNN’s poll of registered voters gave the president 48 percent and Romney only 40 percent. Stronger was the CBS poll of uncommitted voters: President Obama – 53 percent; Mitt Romney – 23 percent; and tied – 24 percent. The 30 points difference was greater than the 24 points difference between the two men in the first debate with Romney winning.

In some ways, foreign policy is more important than domestic policy in a presidential debate because the president has greater latitude than foreign affairs. With U.S. foreign policy less constrained by Congress and relatively free from the media scrutiny that attends the president’s more domestic endeavors, foreign affairs largely remains the domain of the commander in chief.

In this discussion of foreign affairs, however, Romney merely looked pleasant as he largely agreed with the president during this narrow view of the country’s foreign affairs. Missing were issues such as drug traffic from South America, European economics and global finance, consequences of bombing Iran, keeping our planet habitable.

While Romney claims that he wants to help women, nothing was said about the “gag order,” the restriction that denies federal money for family-planning work abroad to any organization that provides information, advice, referrals, or services for legal abortion or supports the legalization of abortion, even using its own money.” Government financing for abortions overseas is already illegal under federal law, but the Republican’s gag rule forced clinic closures, reduced services, and increased fees. It also violated principles of informed consent by requiring health care providers to withhold medical information from female patients. By stifling political debate on abortion-related issues and violating free speech principles, the gag rule also badly undermined America’s credibility as it tries to promote democracy abroad.

Not mentioned in this debate, Romney also vows to renew another of George W. Bush’s shameful policies which blocked the United States from contributing to the United Nations Population Fund. This fund supports programs in some 150 countries to improve poor women’s reproductive health, reduce infant mortality, end the sexual trafficking of women, and prevent the spread of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. The Republican presidential candidate purports the debunked claim that the Population Fund supports coerced abortions in China.

The annual federal contribution to the fund is now down to $35 million, compared with $55 million in fiscal years 2010 and 2011. Overall support for international family planning and reproductive health programs stands at $610 million, far short of the need but still paying for contraceptive services and supplies that reach more than 31 million women and couples, averting 9.4 million unintended pregnancies, 4 million abortions (three-quarters of them unsafe), and 22,000 maternal deaths annually.

Romney may have known that criticizing President Obama for the death of four men at the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi would have gotten him into more trouble.  Even Fox Republican pundit Juan Williams pointed out that Romney’s political strategy is based on deliberate misinformation about the Benghazi assault. These are Williams’ corrections for the myths that Republicans have been spreading:

Correction #1: U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice told the truth based on existing intelligence when she said that the violence grew out of a spontaneous demonstration that was prompted by an American anti-Muslim video. Even two days later, CIA Director David Petraeus confirmed Rice’s statement when he briefed the House Intelligence Committee. Both of them said that there was an ongoing investigation where conclusions were subject to change.

Correction #2: Extra security was requested, not for Benghazi but for Tripoli, 400 miles away. Also U.S. security officials reported that more guards could not have repelled heavy weapons used by the attackers. Nine armed guards were at the embassy as well as four other unarmed Libyan guards inside to screen visitors. House Republicans are also conveniently forgetting that they voted to cut $300 million from Embassy security.

Correction #3: The Taliban threat has diminished, despite Romney campaign claims. Under President Obama, missions have killed the top commanders of the terrorist group including Osama bin Laden, and drone strikes are decimating the other Taliban members. The third and final correction comes in response to the charge that the attack on Benghazi is evidence that al Qaeda is resurgent.

Romney didn’t want the debate to be interesting: he just wanted to survive the 90 minutes without losing more votes.

Much more information available here.

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