Trump Fires Comey

On Jeff Sessions’s recommendation.

 



Time for a Media Reset

Someone sounds awfully worried about Sally Yates’ testimony before the senate today:

Yates will be questioned this afternoon about her warning to the Trump people regarding Flynn’s Russia problem. So Trump is preemptively intimidating her like a sub-literate mafia goon while simultaneously blaming the Obama administration for his own shitty personnel decisions.

President Obama FIRED Flynn before Trump picked him off the trash heap, wound him up and sent him on the “LOCK HER UP!” tour. And apparently Trump’s band of grifting idiots didn’t bother to vet the utterly compromised crackpot Flynn before sharing highly classified information with him as erstwhile NSA. But President “The Buck Stops Anywhere But Here” can’t be bothered with such details.

What are we to conclude from this, aside from the obvious, which is that the person who occupies the Oval Office is a lying, irresponsible, addled dolt — which we already knew? He’s worried about this Russia thing, which just won’t go away. Should he be?

I hope very much that the Russia investigation turns up a bombshell that removes Trump from office, but I have zero faith it will. Comey is a preening hack who seems convinced that hostility from Republicans and Democrats validates his “last honest man in D.C.” conceit. The GOP controls congress, and they’ve already sold out the country to a demented demagogue, so they’ll hamstring every investigation that could endanger their hold on power.

But 2018 hasn’t happened yet, and there’s still time to prevent the next round of interference. The Democrats have their role to play to stop a hostile foreign power from undermining democracy. The FBI and intelligence communities have theirs. And the media has a responsibility here too.

This might sound like a crazy suggestion, but maybe media outlets like the NYT, etc., could use recent developments abroad as well as upcoming events like the Yates testimony as an excuse to reset the way they approach the gigantic elephant in the room: a hostile foreign power’s ongoing meddling in U.S. elections. The way their colleagues in France dealt with a similar attempt by the same outfits to sleaze a fascist into power might be instructive.

Yates’ testimony is expected to directly contradict what Spicer and Priebus told the media about Team Trump’s handling of Flynn. Trump, knowing the testimony is likely to be damaging, implied that Yates committed a crime in the above tweet. We know Trump lied about President Obama’s “wire tapp” — the mainstream press was surprisingly forthright in saying so. I guess there’s a slim chance they’ll treat Trump’s slander of Yates in a similar manner.

I understand that ironic detachment and profitable horse race babbling are tough addictions to overcome, but it’s no exaggeration to say democracy is on the line. And while the Beltway hacks like to pretend they don’t want to be part of the story, the opposite is true: they glory in a scenario that allows them to be players rather than merely covering the game.

Well, here’s your chance, hacks. The Trump administration has lied to you and vilified you for months. You’ve refused to engage in serious introspection about your 2016 political coverage, but here’s a flashing red neon scandal that doesn’t even require that: a recognition that this meddling isn’t going away, and a chance to do something about it. Go be little Murrows. Your country needs you, God help us.



HRClinton — Can’t Win for Losing

Dan Drezner, in the Washington Post:

[W]henever this topic comes up, I feel like gouging my eyes out with a dull spoon there’s a key point that always goes unacknowledged: from the outset of the general election campaign, Clinton faced a more difficult challenge than is commonly understood.

As I pointed out last year and as the April 2017 issue of PS: Political Science & Politics notes, the fundamentals of the 2016 campaign had the race as pretty close to a toss-up. Economic growth in the first half of 2016 was pretty weak. The incumbent party was trying to win a third consecutive presidential campaign. Both of these facts meant that, despite Obama’s personal popularity, the fundamentals of the campaign were far from a Democratic cake-walk…

To be fair, the tightness of the fundamental race heightens the magnitude of each mistake made by Clinton and her campaign. But I think the general election polling numbers mistakenly gave the impression that Clinton’s victory was inexorable when the reality was more murky. Despite Obama’s personal popularity, the simple fact is that the same party has won three consecutive presidential elections only once since 1952. In 2000, Al Gore was running on a stronger economy and still barely eked out a victory in the popular vote. Clinton faced a more difficult path…



Ordnance Only A Mother Could Love

To follow up on DougJ’s post below (and to tread on Alan ADAM* Silverman’s turf):  American forces dropped a GBU-43/B bomb on a target identified as an underground ISIS complex.  The weapon, officially named the “Massive Ordnance Air Blast,” or MOAB, has the probably obvious nickname:  the Mother Of All Bombs.

It’s a no-doubt ginormous creation, with an effective yield of eleven tons of TNT.  It’s so large it is delivered by a variant of a cargo plane, the C130, and not the kind of aircraft more commonly used to deliver battlefield weapons.

A MOAB is not the ultimate bunker-buster, those weapons designed to penetrate well-hardened targets (silos, etc.) For our Vietnam vets, the analogous ordnance is BLU 82B “Daisy Cutter.”  In the open defense literature, the MOAB is at least in part a psychological weapon and in part a clear-the-ground device.  How useful it actually is against a cave complex is unclear, as this description suggests:

The weapon is expected to produce a tremendous explosion that would be effective against hard-target entrances, soft-to-medium surface targets, and for anti-personnel purposes. Because of the size of the explosion, it is also effective at LZ clearance and mine and beach obstacle clearance. Injury or death to persons will be primarily caused by blast or fragmentation. It is expected that the weapon will have a substantial psychological effect on those who witness its use. The massive weapon provides a capability to perform psychological operations, attack large area targets, or hold at-risk threats hidden within tunnels or caves.

There’s at least pretty good reason to believe that the use — its the first combat deployment ever  — was intended to send a message:

The strike comes just days after a Special Forces soldier was killed in Nangarhar province. Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar, of 7th Special Forces Group, was killed Saturday by enemy small arms fire while his unit was conducting counter-ISIS operations, according to the Defense Department.

The fact that the U.S. dropped the MOAB in the same province where De Alencar was killed is probably not a coincidence, said Bill Roggio, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“There might have been a degree of payback here as well,” Roggio told Military Times. “There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, especially if you’re killing your enemy.”

Whatever your response to that aspect of war, here’s the thing.  As Emily Tankin and Paul McLeary write in Foreign Policy, the use of the MOAB is one facet of the broader escalation of US military action across the Middle East and central Asia:
The news came the same day as a report that a coalition airstrike in Syria mistakenly killed 18 fighters backed by the United States.

The U.S. statement also said, “U.S. Forces took every precaution to avoid civilian casualties with this strike.” The U.S. military is reportedly currently assessing the damage from the bomb.

The strike in Afghanistan is part of a huge increase in the American air war in Afghanistan that started under the Obama administration, but has increased even more sharply under President Donald Trump. In the first three months of 2017, American planes have dropped over 450 bombs on targets in Afghanistan, compared to about 1,300 for all of 2016, according to U.S. Air Force statistics. The number of strikes in the first two months of the Trump administration more than doubled the number taken in the same time period under the Obama administration.

The FP journalists note that US military leaders “long bristled at the control the Obama administration exercised over small troop movements and sometimes individual targets.”  Donald Trump — and this is one promise he’s kept — seems to have unleashed  those commanders.  The result?

Well, it seems to me that the question isn’t whether der Trumpenführer will lead us into war.  It is, rather, how quickly the war that’s already bubbling will become recognized as such by the media, and the American people.

As for war aims? That’s the kicker, isn’t it.  Multi-ton bombs are headline-grabbers.  How effective they are, really, at counter-terrorism is, to my deeply un-expert mind…”unclear” is how I’ll put it.  The current spate of bombing and micro-deployments looks like a purely ad hoc approach to whatever our tactical or strategic goals might be in Syria, Iraq and, still, Afghanistan.  If there’s a logic — and I genuinely hope there is — it sure isn’t apparent to this citizen, in whose name (along w. 312 million of my closest friends) these small wars are being fought.

Over to y’all.

Image: Mary Cassatt, Maternité, 1890.

*type in haste, repent at leisure.



Monday Morning Open Thread: Happy Vernal Equinox


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Apart from #Resisting, what’s on the agenda as we start another week (and season)?
***********

A new Washington Post feature, from Media Columnist Margaret Sullivan — “Tracking the special treatment media get when they play nice with the White House“:

True, it is not the proper job of journalists to provide favorable coverage but rather to hold powerful figures accountable.

But that doesn’t get you far these days, at least in terms of access.

So we’ll be taking note of what does.

Consider Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent trip to North Asia — his first such foray. Tillerson broke with long-standing tradition by not including State Department reporters on this foreign trip. The norm is to have a solid group of reporters who provide “pool reports” to others not on the trip, so that American citizens might have a sense of what their government is doing abroad.

Tillerson had only one press representative with him: Erin McPike of the Independent Journal Review, a conservative website founded by Alex Skatell, a former Republican operative.

McPike has little experience covering foreign affairs and has been with IJR only a few weeks, but she had written a piece about why Tillerson might be avoiding the press and how well he and the president were working together behind the scenes to get things done…

The decision was a way to give access to a “broader representation of U.S. media,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters last week, adding, “This is just an attempt to reach beyond the usual suspects, and I’m not trying to say that in a demeaning way at all.”

Tillerson’s own words showed how little respect he has for journalists’ role in keeping citizens informed. He made it all about himself, telling McPike: “I’m not a big media press access person. I personally don’t need it.”…

If they’re not courtiers, what good are they? And I personally don’t need courtiers, so…



Early Morning Open Thread: Is Our Press Corpse Learning?

Interesting, if true:



Friday Morning Open Thread: At Least It Is Friday…

… and hopefully most of the GOP liars will take the weekend off, even if the President-Asterisk down in his Mar-A-Largo dacha gets his tiny little hands on the Twitter-enabled phone again…

What’s on the agenda as we (try to) wrap up the week?