March 17, 2017
Dr. Fareed Zakaria Interviews Mr. Vladimir Putin
March 17, 2017
March 11, 2017
Can a new magazine launched to defend Trump take ideas seriously? Our former colleague Eliana Johnson has a short profile of the guy launching American Affairs, the forthcoming intellectual journal of Trumpism, rising Phoenix-like from the ashes of the Journal of American Greatness.
A 30-year-old conservative wunderkind is out to intellectualize Trumpism, the amorphous ideology that lifted its namesake to the presidency in November. Until recently, the idea itself was an oxymoron, since Trumpism has consisted in large part of the President-elect’s ruthless evisceration of the country’s intellectual elite. But next month, Julius Krein, a 2008 Harvard graduate who has spent most of his admittedly short career in finance, is launching a journal of public policy and political philosophy with an eye toward laying the intellectual foundation for the Trump movement. If his nerdy swagger is any indication, he has big ambitions: He noted wryly that he is — “coincidentally” — the same age that William F. Buckley Jr. was six decades ago when he founded National Review, the magazine that became the flagship of the conservative movement. No offense to Krein, but he should keep the comparisons to Bill Buckley to a minimum. No one wins from such comparisons (except Buckley), and raising expectations you can’t meet strikes me as a bad idea. But other than that, I’m glad someone is doing this.
The conservative movement needs more idea-development, not less. I agree with Yuval Levin, who tells Johnson, “Not nearly enough of that is happening around the changes we’ve seen in this election.” Also, a thing like “Trumpism” deserves an intellectual effort to define it in non-pejorative terms. That said, I’m skeptical of some of Krein’s larger ambitions. Johnson reports that American Affairs will “launch in both a print and digital version, and a substantial portion of the funding will come from Krein himself. He said donors to traditional conservative institutions have been ’surprisingly’ receptive to his pitch, though he declined to name the additional contributors.” How receptive could the donors be if the editor is largely self-funding?
But that’s nitpicking. Krein also said, “We hope not only to encourage a rethinking of the theoretical foundations of ‘conservatism’ but also to promote a broader realignment of American politics.” That’s a pretty tall order for a hedge-fund guy in his spare time. It’s even harder when Donald Trump is your lodestar. I’m quoted in the piece: “It will take a good deal of time for even Trump’s most gifted apologists to craft an intellectually or ideologically coherent theme or narrative to his program,” said Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review.
“Trump boasts that he wants to be unpredictable and insists that he will make all decisions on a case-by-case basis. That’s a hard approach for an intellectual journal to defend in every particular.” My point there is you beat ideas with ideas. You can challenge the “theoretical foundations of ‘conservatism’” (perhaps starting with an explanation for why you put it in scare quotes) or you can defend a theoretical program. Unless you’re just going to defend Pragmatism and/or the instinctual, infallible, wisdom of Donald Trump in all cases, you’ll either need your own theory of the case or you’ll need to allow for writers willing to criticize Trump outright.
There’s nothing wrong with that, except American Affairs is being launched to defend Trump and Trumpism. If Krein isn’t willing to tolerate serious criticism of Trump in furtherance of Trumpism, then he should skip the journal and go work directly for Sean Spicer. If he does allow criticism, (a) good for him and (b) he should be prepared for his pro-Trump journal to be denounced by Trump himself. While I am perfectly comfortable saying that Krein is no William F. Buckley — because no one is — I would note that great magazines and journals are often born out of such chaos and internal contradictions.
Irving Kristol and Daniel Bell founded The Public Interest (which was more of an inspiration for neoconservatives than was The National Interest, contrary to what Eliana wrote). But they had some pretty profound disagreements, causing Bell to walk away early on. Irving Kristol solved these, and similar, problems by making the PI a magazine for writers, not editors.
At National Review we had an even more stormy beginning, with libertarians, Machiavellians, Ultramontane Catholics, Straussian philosophers, social conservatives of every flavor, and a wide variety of ex-Communists squabbling and debating everything under the sun. The creative tension was invaluable in forming the foundation of modern conservatism. Bill Buckley made it work through sheer force of personality. We didn’t have a fan in the Oval Office until Ronald Reagan. Great magazines and journals are often born out of chaos and internal contradictions.
The New Republic (now a pale shadow of its former self) was always at its best when it was at war with itself. I grew up on it in the 1980s, when many of the editors hated one another’s guts and fought over Reagan, the Contras, etc. The magazine’s early years were even more chaotic. The New Republic was founded, according to Walter Lippmann (a one-time New Republic staffer as well as an aide to Woodrow Wilson), “to explore and develop and apply the ideas which had been advertised by Theodore Roosevelt when he was the leader of the Progressive party.”
Pretty much TR was to The New Republic as Trump is to American Affairs. But when Wilson was elected, and started leading us to war, The New Republic was all over the map because of disagreements among the editors. Eventually, their old ideological hero Teddy Roosevelt charged into the offices of The New Republic like a Bull Moose to chew them out for their disloyalty. Realizing he couldn’t set them straight, TR shouted that the magazine was “a negligible sheet, run by two anemic Gentiles and two uncircumcised Jews.” If Trump tweets something like that at Krein & Co., he’ll know he’s on his way to “greatness.”
— Jonah Goldberg is a senior editor of National Review.
NY TIMES BOOK REVIEW: Click Image
March 9, 2017
On April 12, 1982, Yuri Andropov, the chairman of the K.G.B., ordered foreign-intelligence operatives to carry out “active measures”—aktivniye meropriyatiya—against the reëlection campaign of President Ronald Reagan. Unlike classic espionage, which involves the collection of foreign secrets, active measures aim at influencing events—at undermining a rival power with forgeries, front groups, and countless other techniques honed during the Cold War. The Soviet leadership considered Reagan an implacable militarist. According to extensive notes made by Vasili Mitrokhin, a high-ranking K.G.B. officer and archivist who later defected to Great Britain, Soviet intelligence tried to infiltrate the headquarters of the Republican and Democratic National Committees, popularize the slogan “Reagan Means War!,” and discredit the President as a corrupt servant of the military-industrial complex. The effort had no evident effect. Reagan won forty-nine of fifty states.
Active measures were used by both sides throughout the Cold War. In the nineteen-sixties, Soviet intelligence officers spread a rumor that the U.S. government was involved in the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. In the eighties, they spread the rumor that American intelligence had “created” the AIDS virus, at Fort Detrick, Maryland. They regularly lent support to leftist parties and insurgencies. The C.I.A., for its part, worked to overthrow regimes in Iran, Cuba, Haiti, Brazil, Chile, and Panama. It used cash payments, propaganda, and sometimes violent measures to sway elections away from leftist parties in Italy, Guatemala, Indonesia, South Vietnam, and Nicaragua. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, in the early nineties, the C.I.A. asked Russia to abandon active measures to spread disinformation that could harm the U.S. Russia promised to do so. But when Sergey Tretyakov, the station chief for Russian intelligence in New York, defected, in 2000, he revealed that Moscow’s active measures had never subsided. “Nothing has changed,” he wrote, in 2008. “Russia is doing everything it can today to embarrass the U.S.”
Vladimir Putin, who is quick to accuse the West of hypocrisy, frequently points to this history. He sees a straight line from the West’s support of the anti-Moscow “color revolutions,” in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine, which deposed corrupt, Soviet-era leaders, to its endorsement of the uprisings of the Arab Spring. Five years ago, he blamed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the anti-Kremlin protests in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square. “She set the tone for some of our actors in the country and gave the signal,” Putin said. “They heard this and, with the support of the U.S. State Department, began active work.” (No evidence was provided for the accusation.) He considers nongovernmental agencies and civil-society groups like the National Endowment for Democracy, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the election-monitoring group Golos to be barely disguised instruments of regime change.
The U.S. officials who administer the system that Putin sees as such an existential danger to his own reject his rhetoric as “whataboutism,” a strategy of false moral equivalences. Benjamin Rhodes, a deputy national-security adviser under President Obama, is among those who reject Putin’s logic, but he said, “Putin is not entirely wrong,” adding that, in the past, “we engaged in regime change around the world. There is just enough rope for him to hang us.”*
The 2016 Presidential campaign in the United States was of keen interest to Putin. He loathed Obama, who had applied economic sanctions against Putin’s cronies after the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of eastern Ukraine. (Russian state television derided Obama as “weak,” “uncivilized,” and a “eunuch.”) Clinton, in Putin’s view, was worse—the embodiment of the liberal interventionist strain of U.S. foreign policy, more hawkish than Obama, and an obstacle to ending sanctions and reëstablishing Russian geopolitical influence. At the same time, Putin deftly flattered Trump, who was uncommonly positive in his statements about Putin’s strength and effectiveness as a leader. As early as 2007, Trump declared that Putin was “doing a great job in rebuilding the image of Russia and also rebuilding Russia period.” In 2013, before visiting Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant, Trump wondered, in a tweet, if he would meet Putin, and, “if so, will he become my new best friend?” During the Presidential campaign, Trump delighted in saying that Putin was a superior leader who had turned the Obama Administration into a “laughingstock.”
For those interested in active measures, the digital age presented opportunities far more alluring than anything available in the era of Andropov. The Democratic and Republican National Committees offered what cybersecurity experts call a large “attack surface.” Tied into politics at the highest level, they were nonetheless unprotected by the defenses afforded to sensitive government institutions. John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and a former chief of staff of Bill Clinton’s, had every reason to be aware of the fragile nature of modern communications. As a senior counsellor in the Obama White House, he was involved in digital policy. Yet even he had not bothered to use the most elementary sort of defense, two-step verification, for his e-mail account…
March 5, 2017
Geo-Politics, Disruptive Social Developments and Technological Change: Has the Game Changed? Yes, that is easy part of the answer. How we wish that life is simple and outcomes are predictable. But it is not. I have been grappling a few questions. I asked myself questions like What has changed? How it has changed? What is driving the change?What this change means to us in Asia.
China, North Korea, Islamic and Christian evangelism, terrorism and so on are making the headlines.I also see increasing polarisation and the need for understanding and rebuilding trust. I expect our politicians to reconnect with people they are mandated to serve and want leaders to lead with integrity, honesty and hope. Listen to DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam for some insights.–Din Merican
March 5, 2017
Donald Trump flew out of Washington on Friday but was unable to leave a gathering storm of allegations, intrigue and unanswered questions about his ties to Russia behind him.
It was Watergate, now it is likely to be Trump Towers Scandal–Momentum to Impeach 45th POTUS grows stronger, thanks New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN
The US President’s joint address to Congress this week was well received but was rapidly overshadowed by revelations that his Attorney-General, Jeff Sessions, had twice spoken with the Russian Ambassador during last year’s presidential election.
As it has emerged that other members of the Trump campaign – including his son-in-law Jared Kushner – also met with the Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, the Kremlin connection seems destined to be the putative scandal that will not go away for the White House.
The relentless drip-drip of evidence has prompted comparisons with the Watergate affair that felled President Richard Nixon. It has also become regular sport for comedians on late-night TV.
In Florida, the President was due to visit a school and meet Republican leaders on Friday but Democrats kept up the pressure in Washington. They argued that Sessions’ meetings with the ambassador contradicted his own sworn statements to Congress during his confirmation hearing. Sessions claimed on Thursday that he met the ambassador in his capacity as a senator, not as a campaign surrogate.
On Friday, the White House tried to steer criticism of Trump associates and their meetings with Russian officials away, by drawing parallels with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, who was photographed meeting with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in 2003.
In a characteristic diversionary tactic, Trump tweeted an old photo of Schumer and Putin smiling and snacking together with the message: “We should start an immediate investigation into @SenSchumer and his ties to Russia and Putin. A total hypocrite!”
Schumer swiftly replied: “Happily talk re: my contact w Mr. Putin & his associates, took place in ’03 in full view of press & public under oath. Would you &your team?
Chuck Schumer Retweeted Donald J. Trump
Happily talk re: my contact w Mr. Putin & his associates, took place in ’03 in full view of press & public under oath. Would you &your team?
Chuck Schumer added,
Speaking to reporters, the White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders echoed the president: “I mean Chuck Schumer sitting and having drinks with Putin and that’s not a news story, but apparently a volunteer for a campaign bumping into one at a conference where there’s, again, dozens of other ambassadors is newsworthy.”
Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, said the Attorney-General’s decision to recuse himself from an investigation into Russian-backed hackers’ interference in last year’s presidential election did not go far enough.
“Everybody knew that there was something completely out-of-order that was going on, so for him to say, well, I was just meeting with him in the normal course of a senator meeting with an ambassador, the Russian Ambassador, everybody knew was hacking our system is beyond naive,” she told an event organised by Politico in Washington. “It’s almost pathetic. It’s almost pathetic.
Trump’s Attorney-General Jeff Sessions may have committed perjury
“So he did not tell the truth, and now it has come out that he did not tell the truth, and now what you see is there are other people in the Trump administration who have met with the Russian ambassador, in view of some one of the biggest intelligence officers of the Russian government, in Washington DC.”
Some US media reports have suggested that Kislyak acts as a spy recruiter, a charge that Moscow has ridiculed as paranoia.
Pelosi added: “So this recusal is an admission that something went on but it’s not sufficient. There are two things. One is the recusal as a surrogate of then candidate Trump’s campaign and having communication with the Russian government knowing they were hacking our system. That’s what the recusal is about, however narrow it is.
“The other part of it is the possibility of perjury, which is punishable by law for anybody else. Certainly we should have that be standard for the highest-ranking law enforcement person in our country.”
Sessions, who was the first senator to endorse Trump for president, told his confirmation hearing in January that he “did not have communications with the Russians” and did not know of any by other campaign staff.
Democrats have variously called on him to recuse himself from all potential investigations, retestify before Congress, resign or be charged with perjury, while demanding an independent commission to investigate. Richard Blumenthal, senator for Connecticut, urged the embattled attorney general to return to the Senate judiciary committee to “testify under oath” about the conversation at his office with Kislyak.
“I’d like him to explain what was said during that September 8 meeting,” Blumenthal told MSNBC’s Morning Joe program. “And what came of it, and also what other meetings there may have been, because if he misled us as to that meeting, what other meetings might he also have failed to disclose?”
The congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, has called for Sessions to quit, saying he “clearly misled” the Senate about contacts with Russian officials, and demanded that a special prosecutor be appointed.
Schiff also accused the FBI Director, James Comey, of withholding crucial information about its investigation into Russian meddling in the election, and raised the prospect of subpoenaing the agency.
“I would say at this point we know less than a fraction of what the FBI knows,” the California Democrat told reporters after a briefing with Comey. “I appreciate we had a long briefing and testimony from the director today, but in order for us to do our investigation in a thorough and credible way, we’re gonna need the FBI to fully cooperate, to be willing to tell us the length and breadth of any counterintelligence investigations they are conducting. At this point, the director was not willing to do that.”
Speaking to Fox News on Thursday evening, Sessions, a former senator from Alabama, reiterated that he did not discuss the campaign with Kislyak. “When I campaigned for Trump, I was not involved with anything like that,” he said. “You can be sure.”
Despite the conclusions of US intelligence agencies, Sessions refused to say whether Putin favoured Trump over Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. “I have never been told that,” he told the host, Tucker Carlson. “I don’t have any idea, Tucker – you’d have to ask them.”
Trump has consistently denied business or political ties with Russia but has also been conspicuously reluctant to criticise Putin and raised the prospect of reviewing sanctions against the country. Opponents argue there is circumstantial evidence that Trump colluded with Moscow to help his campaign but definitive proof has remained elusive.
Last month Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign amid controversy over his discussions with Kislyak in late December.
On Thursday, it emerged that Kushner joined Flynn at a private meeting with the Ambassador at Trump Tower in New York. Another campaign aide, Carter Page, did not deny meeting Kislyak during the Republican national convention. And the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump’s son, Donald Jr, was probably paid at least $50,000 for an appearance late last year at a French think tank whose founder and wife have strong ties to Russia.
Trump, meanwhile, said that Sessions was the target of a “witch-hunt” and declared his “total” confidence in him.
He tweeted: “This whole narrative is a way of saving face for Democrats losing an election that everyone thought they were supposed to win. The Democrats are overplaying their hand. They lost the election, and now they have lost their grip on reality.”