Donald Trump Further Inflames Situation In North Korea

The conventional wisdom regarding North Korea has been that Kim Jong Un is crazy. While that very well may be the case, we are now in a strange situation where it is not clear which nation has the crazier leader. Trump made this threat: “He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said, they will be met with fire and fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.” There has been received with universal criticism that it only inflames the situation. It also turns out that this was an improvised statement by Donald Trump. The New York Times reports:

President Trump delivered his “fire and fury” threat to North Korea on Tuesday with arms folded, jaw set and eyes flitting on what appeared to be a single page of talking points set before him on the conference table at his New Jersey golf resort.

The piece of paper, as it turned out, was a fact sheet on the opioid crisis he had come to talk about, and his ominous warning to Pyongyang was entirely improvised, according to several people with direct knowledge of what unfolded. In discussions with advisers beforehand, he had not run the specific language by them, though he had talked over possible responses in a general way.

The inflammatory words quickly escalated the confrontation with North Korea to a new, alarming level and were followed shortly by a new threat from North Korea to obliterate an American air base on Guam. In the hours since, the president’s advisers have sought to calm the situation, with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson assuring Americans that they “should sleep at night” without worrying about an imminent war.

USA Today summarizes some of the international reaction. In reviewing past crises, another report in The New York Times reports how there is little precedent for such a statement. Others in the government are now busy attempting damage control. Jonathan Chait wins best headline award on the topic with, Ignore Our Crazy President, U.S. Government Tells North Korea.

Of course not everyone is critical of Donald Trump. In perhaps the scariest headline on the topic, The Washington Post reports, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un,’ evangelical adviser says:

Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, one of President Trump’s evangelical advisers who preached the morning of his inauguration, has released a statement saying the president has the moral authority to “take out” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“When it comes to how we should deal with evildoers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil,” Jeffress said. “In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”

Trump’s statements most likely come from his lack of understanding of how to carry out the duties of the presidency. Kim Jong Un’s actions are in some ways more rational, if you look at his motivation based upon retaining absolute control over North Korea, regardless of how much suffering he causes.

There are multiple reasons which originally motivated North Korea to develop nuclear weapons, including both witnessing the effects of nuclear weapons in nearby Japan and the devastation their country suffered in the Korean War. However these events happened before the current leadership was born, and more recent events appear to be motivating them to further develop the nuclear weapons and refuse to compromise. North Korea has claimed that they need to preserve their nuclear program because of the example of how Saddam was overthrown after he gave up his weapons of mass destruction and Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed after he surrendered his nuclear weapons. Such examples make it unlikely that Kim Jong Un will back down in the face of sanctions.

It is now well known how George Bush lied us into the war in Iraq. The regime change in Libya orchestrated by Hillary Clinton has been a similar disaster, with Barack Obama calling it one of the biggest mistakes of his presidency. A report by the U.K. Parliament showed that this war, like Iraq, was also started based upon lies. The situation we now face in North Korea is yet another of the consequences we face for the reckless interventionism of neocons like Bush and Clinton. On top of this, the crisis must be dealt with by a president who appears to be clueless as to how to respond.

Update: The Washington Post points out one of Ronald Reagan’s contributions to the problem with the invasion of Grenada:

In October 1983, the United States invaded Grenada. The Kim family regime that controls North Korea saw this invasion as an early warning sign: If the United States could perceive even a small spice island as a threat, so too could it eventually train its sights on North Korea. Without an effective deterrent, any regime perceived as a threat would be little match for American military might.

It wasn’t just Grenada’s size that caught the Kim family’s attention. Grenada, a country of only 110,000 people that is known primarily for producing nutmeg, had significance for the North Korean leadership in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Kim Il Sung, grandfather of North Korea’s present-day leader Kim Jong Un, viewed the new Grenadian socialist government headed by Maurice Bishop as brave revolutionaries directly fighting U.S. imperialism in the Caribbean. Kim Il Sung also sought the help of recently decolonized nations like Grenada in international forums, as a way to undermine South Korea’s legitimacy abroad and garner support for a North Korean-led reunification of the two Koreas…

Clinton Plans On Doubling Down On Blaming Others For Her Loss In Upcoming Book

Republicans who hope to keep control of the House have received great news. They will still have Hillary Clinton to kick around. The Hill reports that Clinton is doubling down on her claims that she lost due to James Comey, Russia, and sexism rather than being  a terrible candidate who ran a terrible campaign:

Hillary Clinton’s new memoir will blame her 2016 presidential election loss on Russian interference and former FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that he was reopening the investigation into her emails.

Sources familiar with the memoir told the Hill that Clinton made the two scenarios cornerstones of her book, which will be released in September.

“She really believes that’s why she lost,” said a longtime Clinton ally. “She wants the whole story out there from her own perspective. I think a lot of people are going to be really surprised by how much she reveals.”

…While the book will zero in on Russia and Comey — which Clinton has said are the two biggest contributing factors to her loss — it will also examine other factors she blames for a role in her defeat, including sexism and misogyny.

Hillary Clinton’s upcoming book will double down on Russia’s interference and James Comey’s involvement in her stunning election defeat, according to sources familiar with the memoir.

Earlier this week I cited the opinion from FiveThirtyEight that having Clinton on the ballot hurt the Democrats in down ticket races. FiveThirtyEight expressed the view that not having Clinton on the ballot will  help Democrats in 2018. On the other hand, having her on a speaking tour promoting her book and her excuses for losing could be harmful to Democrats running. Clinton’s popularity has fallen even more than Trump’s since the election, and I suspect that Clinton’s blame tour to date has been part of the reason.

Some Democratic leaders are recognizing the problem:

Some Democrats are worried that their party’s goal of rebuilding and rebranding itself will be undermined by Clinton’s book.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) has publicly stated that Clinton should not blame anyone but herself and lack of messaging.

“When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things—Comey, Russia—you blame yourself,” Schumer told the Washington Post. “So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden has also criticized Clinton for her campaign.

“I never thought she was a great candidate. I thought I was a great candidate,” he said in May.

“What happened was that this was the first campaign that I can recall where my party did not talk about what it always stood for—and that was how to maintain a burgeoning middle class,” Biden said in March.

“You didn’t hear a single solitary sentence in the last campaign about the guy working on the assembly line making $60,000 a year and a wife making $32,000 as a hostess,” he said.

Of course pushing Clinton’s candidacy on the country, which ultimately led to the election of Donald Trump, was the last stray in destroying the credibility of the Democratic establishment. As an op-ed in The New York Times notes, the real civil war in the Democratic party is “is between those willing to trust the existing establishment and those who want entirely new leadership.” (While Lee Drutman’s op-ed does make some good points here, he does underestimate how great an ideological gap also exists.)

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign both shows many of the mistakes on Clinton’s fault which accounted for her loss, along with how she decided within the first twenty-four hours upon the strategy of blaming others

Clinton’s excuses are all very weak. In blaming James Comey, Clinton ignores the fact that James Comey would not have been investigating her in the first place if she had not grossly violated the rules regarding email and  hadn’t handled classified information in a careless manner. The investigation further hurt Clinton as Comey’s report demonstrated that she had repeatedly lied in her public statements about the matter. This gave further credence to her reputation of both seeing herself above the  law and of being dishonest. She further hurt herself when she repeatedly lied about what James Comey had reported.  Clinton’s violation of the rules regarding her use of the private server was confirmed to be in violation of the rules in effect in 2009 by the Obama administration State Department Inspector General Report. Fact checkers repeatedly showed that Clinton was lying about the email and Foundation scandals. Clinton’s credibility was also seriously harmed by the manner in which she grossly violated the ethics agreements she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State.

Placing the blame on Russia does not hold up either. The evidence released so far has shown that Russia was not able to hack into the voting machines or change a single vote. There remains questions as to whether the claims from the intelligence community that Russia is responsible for the Wikileaks release of email are any more valid than the claims of Saddam having WMD before the invasion of Iraq. Even if we accept the view that Russia was responsible for the hacked email, nobody has seriously questioned the accuracy of the information released by Wikileaks. The Wikileaks releases of hacked email hurt because it verified criticism that the DNC had violated its own rules in rigging the nomination for Clinton, and in showing Clinton’s dishonesty. Again it comes down to Clinton losing due to her own major flaws.

Some of those who blame Russia have moved on to claims that Clinton was hurt by fake news spread from Russia. This ignores the vast amount of criticism of Clinton going back for years–including both factually accurate criticism along with bogus criticism from the right wing. The left has opposed the policies of the Clintons and DLC since the 1990’s. Views of Clinton were already set well before her nomination, and if any fake news did come from Russia, it would have been lost in the vast amount of noise already present on the internet.

While some undoubtedly would not vote for Clinton due to misogyny, these were primarily people who would never vote for any Democrat. Clinton was probably helped more than hurt by her gender among Democratic-leaning voters. A male candidate with Clinton’s repeated failures during her career, along with holding views more conservative than the Democratic base, would probably have only been a third-tier candidate with no chance of winning the nomination. Far too many Democrats overlooked Clinton’s serious flaws because of her gender.

“Game Change” Has Embarrassing Moments For the Clintons, the Edwards, Harry Reid, and Sarah Palin

Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin doesn’t come out until Tuesday but advance copies are out. Marc Ambinder has some of the juiciest portions:

Hillary Clinton had a “war room within a war room” to deal with Bill’s libido:

The war room within a war room dismissed or discredited much of the gossip floating around, but not all of it. The stories about one woman were more concrete, and after some discreet fact-finding, the group concluded that they were true: that Bill was indeed having an affair — and not a frivolous one-night stand but a sustained romantic relationship.  …. For months, thereafter, the war room within a war room braced for the explosion, which her aides knew could come at any moment.

The identity of the woman is not revealed.

Harry Reid has already issued an apology for this:

[His] encouragement of Obama was unequivocal. He was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama — a “light-skinned” African American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” as he said privately.  Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama’s race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination.

Barack Obama has accepted the apology:

Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today. I accepted Harry’s apology without question because I’ve known him for years, I’ve seen the passionate leadership he’s shown on issues of social justice and I know what’s in his heart. As far as I am concerned, the book is closed.

Ambinder summarized the material on John Edwards’ affair:

I would be remiss if I did not point to the chapters about the unbelievably dysfunctional husband and wife team of John and Elizabeth Edwards.  Not only, it turns out, did many senior Edwards staffer suspect that John was having an affair, several confronted John Edwards about it, and came away believing the rumors.  At least three campaign aides resigned because of their knowledge of the affair well before the national media picked up on those early National Enquirer stories.

And John and Elizabeth (who the book says was known to Edwards insiders as “abusive, intrusive, paranoid, condescending, crazywoman”) fought, in front of staffers, about the affair. The authors describe a moment where Elizabeth, in a such a state of fury, deliberately tears her blouse in the parking lot of a Raleigh airport terminal, “exposing herself. ‘Look at me,” she wailed at John and then staggered, nearly falling to the ground.” (That’s page 142.)   (This was in October, by the way, well before the media took the reports of the Hunter affair seriously.)

New York Magazine has an extended excerpt from the book on John Edwards. Long time readers of this blog may recall that even before the scandal broke I considered Edwards to be a light weight and a phony who had no place on a national ticket (and realistically was not even fit to be a Senator). Apparently many Democratic leaders agreed with my feeling in 2003 that neither Clinton or Edwards would make satisfactory candidates:

Edwards never expected to be the third wheel in 2008. The race was going to be Hillary versus him. That was how he saw it from the start. She would be the front-runner, of course. But as sure as night follows day, there would be an alternative, an anti-Hillary, and he would be it.

The Democratic Establishment agreed that there would be—and certainly should be—a viable challenger to Clinton. The party’s pooh-bahs on Capitol Hill were privately terrified about the prospect of Hillary rolling to the nomination. They feared that she was too polarizing to win, that she would drag down House and Senate candidates in red and purple states; and they worried, too, about Bill’s putative affairs. But while the Clintons themselves regarded Edwards as Hillary’s most formidable rival, there existed a deep wariness about the North Carolinian among his fellow Democrats. In the Senate, in particular, Edwards was regarded almost universally by his former colleagues as a callow, shallow phony. Quietly, the Establishment began a quest to find a different alternative, eventually settling on the unlikely horse that was Obama—with Harry Reid personally, and secretly, urging the Illinois senator to run against Clinton.

Ben Smith reveals why Ted Kennedy was so mad at Bill Clinton:

[A]s Hillary bungled Caroline, Bill’s handling of Ted was even worse. The day after Iowa, he phoned Kennedy and pressed for an endorsement, making the case for his wife. But Bill then went on, belittling Obama in a manner that deeply offended Kennedy. Recounting the conversation later to a friend, Teddy fumed that Clinton had said, A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.

This is reminiscent of  Clinton’s racist attacks on Obama as the campaign heated up.

The book is full of stories of Sarah Palin’s ignorance.

In the days leading up to an interview with ABC News’ Charlie Gibson, aides were worried with Ms. Palin’s grasp of facts. She couldn’t explain why North and South Korea were separate nations and she did not know what the Federal Reserve did. She also said she believed Saddam Hussein attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Anderson Cooper has interviewed former McCain campaign  adviser Steve Schmidt for a story on 60 Minutes regarding the upcoming book. Schmidt said that Palin’s preparation for the debate with Joe Biden was going so badly that they feared “the debate was going to be a debacle of historic and epic proportions. … She was not focused … not engaged.”  She also had trouble remembering her debate opponent’s name:

Sarah Palin’s charming opening debate line for now-Vice President Joe Biden — “Hey, can I call you Joe?” — was scripted after she repeatedly referred to him as “O’Biden” in preparation sessions, former McCain campaign senior adviser Steve Schmidt told “60 Minutes.”

Update: More from Game Change

Blair Admits He Would Have Found Excuse To Invade Iraq Without WMD Claim

When can we have George Bush subjected to questioning like this in interviews?

Reporting from London – Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he would have found a justification for invading Iraq even without the now-discredited evidence that Saddam Hussein was trying to produce weapons of mass destruction.

“I would still have thought it right to remove him. I mean, obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat,” Blair told the BBC in an interview to be broadcast this morning.

It was a startling admission from the onetime British leader, who was President Bush’s staunchest ally in the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

Blair’s comments were immediately denounced by critics who accused him of using false pretenses to drag Britain into an unpopular war that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of allied troops and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

Of course we know that Bush would never get into a situation in which journalists would be allowed to question him in this nature. Another difference is that the lies during the run up to the war are being investigated in Great Britain while being ignored here.

Obama Accepts Nobel Peace Prize

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Barack Obama has accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.

The full text of his acceptance speech is under the fold.

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Bush Discussed Invasion of Iraq With British Officials Two Years Before War

George Bush took advantage of the 9/11 attack to invade Iraq even though there was no connection. There has already been considerable evidence that Bush and other neoconservatives had wanted to invade Iraq long before the 9/11 attack and ceased upon this as an excuse. The Times of London reports on an enquiry which as found that American officials were secretly discussing an invasion of Iraq with British officials two years before it occurred:

British and American officials secretly discussed overthrowing Saddam Hussein two years before the invasion of Iraq, the public inquiry into the war was told today.

Foreign Office officials said they feared that United Nations sanctions against Iraq were losing support amid growing concern about weapons of mass destruction in 2001.

Sir Peter Ricketts, then chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, told the opening day of the inquiry that he was aware of a “background noise” of discussion in the United States about overthrowing the Iraqi regime after the election of President George W. Bush.

He said a review of the Iraq policy was already under way in Whitehall in anticipation of the arrival of the new Bush Administration.

Keith Olbermann Demolishes Joe Wilson

Keith Olbermann demolished Joe Wilson in a Special Comment last night(video above). Transcript (via Crooks and Liars) under the fold. More on Wilson here and here.

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Once Again, The More You Watch Fox The Dumber You Are

As with Iraq and most other issues there has been one easy way to identify which Americans are misinformed–check who watches Fox. Poll after poll show that the more you watch Fox, the dumber you are. First Read notes that polling support for health care reform has fallen due to rampant misinformation:

One of the reasons why the public appears so wary about Obama’s health-care plans is due to all the misinformation out there. Majorities in the poll believe the plans would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants (55%), would lead to a government takeover of the health system (54%), and would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions (50%) — all claims that nonpartisan fact-checkers say are untrue about the legislation that has emerged so far from Congress. Additionally, 45% think the reform proposals would allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care for the elderly, which also isn’t true. When you have nearly half of the public believing that the government is willing to pull the plug on grandma, you’re in trouble.

They further looked at who is the most likely to believe such misinformation. The numbers are highest for Fox, but many viewers of the supposedly “liberal media” also believe much of the misinformation:

Here’s another way to look at the misinformation: In our poll, 72% of self-identified FOX News viewers believe the health-care plan will give coverage to illegal immigrants, 79% of them say it will lead to a government takeover, 69% think that it will use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, and 75% believe that it will allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing care for the elderly. But it would be incorrect to suggest that this is ONLY coming from conservative viewers who tune in to FOX. In fact, 41% of CNN/MSNBC viewers believe the misinformation about illegal immigrants, 39% believe the government takeover stuff, 40% believe the abortion misperception, and 30% believe the stuff about pulling the plug on grandma. What’s more, a good chunk of folks who get their news from broadcast TV (NBC, ABC, CBS) believe these things, too. This is about credible messengers using the media to get some of this misinformation out there, not as much about the filter itself. These numbers should worry Democratic operatives, as well as the news media that have been covering this story.

In this case we would be better off we we really did have a liberal media in contrast to Fox. The media typically presents true statements from liberals along with misinformation from the far right and believes this is the way to provide balance. Fortunately, considering how dishonest the Republicans have been during the health care debate, many objective sources have been posting fact checking to demonstrate this.

Steve Benen places the pattern of misinformation from Fox in perspective:

Matt Corley added, “As ThinkProgress has pointed out, Fox News regularly distorts the truth about health care reform. Last week, Media Matters found that over a two day period opponents of health care reform outnumbered supporters by a 6-to-1 margin on Fox.”

Let’s also not forget that this is consistent with recent history — in the midst of national policy debates, Fox News viewers routinely get key details wrong more often than the rest of the public. Six months into the war in Iraq, for example, the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland released a report on Americans’ understanding of the basics. PIPA found that those who relied on the Republican network were “three times more likely than the next nearest network to hold all three misperceptions — about WMD in Iraq, Saddam Hussein was involved with 9/11, and foreign support for the U.S. position on the war in Iraq.”

Fox News viewers would have done better, statistically speaking, if they had received no news at all and simply guessed whether the claims were accurate. Matters have clearly not improved.

Memo Reveals Bush’s Plan To Provoke War With Iraq When No WMD Found

The Guardian presents evidence that George Bush desired to fabricate a reason to invade Iraq when he realized that no WMD would be found in Iraq:

A confidential record of a meeting between President Bush and Tony Blair before the invasion of Iraq, outlining their intention to go to war without a second United Nations resolution, will be an explosive issue for the official inquiry into the UK’s role in toppling Saddam Hussein.

The memo, written on 31 January 2003, almost two months before the invasion and seen by the Observer, confirms that as the two men became increasingly aware UN inspectors would fail to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) they had to contemplate alternative scenarios that might trigger a second resolution legitimising military action.

Bush told Blair the US had drawn up a provocative plan “to fly U2 reconnaissance aircraft painted in UN colours over Iraq with fighter cover”. Bush said that if Saddam fired at the planes this would put the Iraqi leader in breach of UN resolutions.

The president expressed hopes that an Iraqi defector would be “brought out” to give a public presentation on Saddam’s WMD or that someone might assassinate the Iraqi leader. However, Bush confirmed even without a second resolution, the US was prepared for military action. The memo said Blair told Bush he was “solidly with the president”.

The five-page document, written by Blair’s foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning, and copied to Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the UK ambassador to the UN, Jonathan Powell, Blair’s chief of staff, the chief of the defence staff, Admiral Lord Boyce, and the UK’s ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, outlines how Bush told Blair he had decided on a start date for the war.

Paraphrasing Bush’s comments at the meeting, Manning, noted: “The start date for the military campaign was now pencilled in for 10 March. This was when the bombing would begin.”

Last night an expert on international law who is familar with the memo’s contents said it provided vital evidence into the two men’s frames of mind as they considered the invasion and its aftermath and must be presented to the Chilcott inquiry established by Gordon Brown to examine the causes, conduct and consequences of the Iraq war.

It is good that such information on the war is beginning to be investigated. It is a shame that this is being done in foreign countries but not here in the United States.  In retrospect, as all the arguments for the war were proven to be false, there are only two possible conclusions. Either George Bush intentionally lied to start a war or he was incompetent in believing arguments which contradicted the facts. This memo suggests the former explanation.

Debunking Cheney

Earlier in the week Dick Cheney gave a speech after Barack Obama on national security and the media went along with the hype that this was some sort of debate between the two. Dick Cheney is a war criminal who is wrong on most national security issues, and whose ideas were rejected in the past election. Even the Republican candidate rejected some of Cheney’s more extreme positions, such as support for torture (which is a war crime). Hearing Dick Cheney try to excuse his war crimes and attack Obama should not be taken as a debate between the two as if they are still on equal footing.

Joe Klein interpreted Cheney’s speech in the context of his overall philosophy:

I refer readers to Barton Gellman’s excellent Cheney biography, Angler, in which it is made plain that Cheney’s view of the presidency (provided by his thuggish counsel, David Addington) was eccentric at best; and, at worst, a temporary coup d’etat, abetted by the President’s lack of interest or mortal dimness. It’s true, as Brooks writes, that some of Cheney’s overreach was a result of understandable panic after the 9/11 attacks. But the real problem, as evidenced by the Vice President’s actions in other areas (like environmental policy), was Cheney’s twisted belief that the Constitution confers on the President near-dictatorial powers, especially in a time of war. Cheney’s profound authoritarian streak, and his moral ignorance, were demonstrated once again in his speech yesterday:

“In the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground and half-measures leave you half-exposed.”

Which is utter nonsense, of course: the middle ground exists between doing nothing and doing far too much, too brutally–in a way that only creates more terrorists–a path that Cheney pursued to our great national detriment.

He also discussed the differences in Obama’s views:

In fact, the thrust of Obama’s national security policy is dramatically different from Bush’s. His emphasis on a comprehensive regional approach in Afghanistan and Pakistan is the opposite of Bush’s feckless abandonment of this far more crucial fight in the war against Al Qaeda. His decision to engage Iran, his decision to push forward in the Middle East (including the demand that Israel stop building illegal settlements), his decision to participate in global climate change talks, his decision not to indulge in the disdain–manifested by Cheney yet again in his speech–for our European allies. These are all dramatic turns for the better.

The difference between Obama and Cheney-Bush on national security and foreign policy issues is simply put: it’s the difference between a moderate and an extremist, the difference between a leader and a bully.

Even Tom Ridge disagreed with Cheney’s claims that the country is less safe under Obama.

McClatchy listed many factual errors made by Cheney:

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