America–Led Liberal World Order, R.I.P

March 22, 2018

America–Led Liberal World Order, R.I.P

by Richard N. Haass–haass-2018-03

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America’s decision to abandon the global system it helped build, and then preserve for more than seven decades, marks a turning point, because others lack either the interest or the means to sustain it. The result will be a world that is less free, less prosperous, and less peaceful, for Americans and others alike.

NEW DELHI – After a run of nearly one thousand years, quipped the French philosopher and writer Voltaire, the fading Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire. Today, some two and a half centuries later, the problem, to paraphrase Voltaire, is that the fading liberal world order is neither liberal nor worldwide nor orderly.

The United States, working closely with the United Kingdom and others, established the liberal world order in the wake of World War II. The goal was to ensure that the conditions that had led to two world wars in 30 years would never again arise.

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To that end, the democratic countries set out to create an international system that was liberal in the sense that it was to be based on the rule of law and respect for countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity. Human rights were to be protected. All this was to be applied to the entire planet; at the same time, participation was open to all and voluntary. Institutions were built to promote peace (the United Nations), economic development (the World Bank) and trade and investment (the International Monetary Fund and what years later became the World Trade Organization).

All this and more was backed by the economic and military might of the US, a network of alliances across Europe and Asia, and nuclear weapons, which served to deter aggression. The liberal world order was thus based not just on ideals embraced by democracies, but also on hard power. None of this was lost on the decidedly illiberal Soviet Union, which had a fundamentally different notion of what constituted order in Europe and around the world.

The liberal world order appeared to be more robust than ever with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. But today, a quarter-century later, its future is in doubt. Indeed, its three components – liberalism, universality, and the preservation of order itself – are being challenged as never before in its 70-year history.

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Liberalism is in retreat. Democracies are feeling the effects of growing populism. Parties of the political extremes have gained ground in Europe. The vote in the United Kingdom in favor of leaving the EU attested to the loss of elite influence. Even the US is experiencing unprecedented attacks from its own president on the country’s media, courts, and law-enforcement institutions. Authoritarian systems, including China, Russia, and Turkey, have become even more top-heavy. Countries such as Hungary and Poland seem uninterested in the fate of their young democracies.

It is increasingly difficult to speak of the world as if it were whole. We are seeing the emergence of regional orders – or, most pronounced in the Middle East, disorders – each with its own characteristics. Attempts to build global frameworks are failing. Protectionism is on the rise; the latest round of global trade talks never came to fruition. There are few rules governing the use of cyberspace.

At the same time, great power rivalry is returning. Russia violated the most basic norm of international relations when it used armed force to change borders in Europe, and it violated US sovereignty through its efforts to influence the 2016 election. North Korea has flouted the strong international consensus against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The world has stood by as humanitarian nightmares play out in Syria and Yemen, doing little at the UN or elsewhere in response to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons. Venezuela is a failing state. One in every hundred people in the world today is either a refugee or internally displaced.Image result for Liberal World Order, R.I.P.

The Retreating Eagle–“America First” and the liberal world order seem incompatible.–Richard N. Haass

There are several reasons why all this is happening, and why now. The rise of populism is in part a response to stagnating incomes and job loss, owing mostly to new technologies but widely attributed to imports and immigrants. Nationalism is a tool increasingly used by leaders to bolster their authority, especially amid difficult economic and political conditions. And global institutions have failed to adapt to new power balances and technologies.

But the weakening of the liberal world order is due, more than anything else, to the changed attitude of the US. Under President Donald Trump, the US decided against joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership and to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. It has threatened to leave the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Iran nuclear deal. It has unilaterally introduced steel and aluminum tariffs, relying on a justification (national security) that others could use, in the process placing the world at risk of a trade war. It has raised questions about its commitment to NATO and other alliance relationships. And it rarely speaks about democracy or human rights. “America First” and the liberal world order seem incompatible.

My point is not to single out the US for criticism. Today’s other major powers, including the EU, Russia, China, India, and Japan, could be criticized for what they are doing, not doing, or both. But the US is not just another country. It was the principal architect of the liberal world order and its principal backer. It was also a principal beneficiary.

America’s decision to abandon the role it has played for more than seven decades thus marks a turning point. The liberal world order cannot survive on its own, because others lack either the interest or the means to sustain it. The result will be a world that is less free, less prosperous, and less peaceful, for Americans and others alike.

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*Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, previously served as Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department (2001-2003), and was President George W. Bush’s special envoy to Northern Ireland and Coordinator for the Future of Afghanistan. He is the author of A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order.


American Foreign Policy after Rexit

March 20, 2018

American Foreign Policy after Rexit

Mr, Rex Tillerson was a poor secretary of state. What follows may be worse.

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Mr. Rex Tillerson paid  a heavy price for calling his White House Boss  “Moron”

EVEN by the reality-TV standards of this White House, the manner in which Mr. Rex Tillerson was sacked as Secretary of State was jaw-dropping. President Donald Trump fired him by tweet, saying that he would be replaced by Mr. Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA. He did not call him until much later, nor did he offer an explanation. Mr. Tillerson’s spokesman said that he had no idea why his boss had been fired. So he was fired, too.

Mr. Tillerson was a poor Secretary of State. Having run ExxonMobil, the tenth-biggest company in the world by revenue, he treated diplomacy like business and his department like a division ripe for restructuring. He seemed to regard his underlings as idle assets and they repaid him with their scorn (see article). So, too, did the President, at least after reports that Mr. Tillerson had called him a “moron”.

Image result for mike pompeo and trumpMr. Mike Pompeo


The new man, Mr. Pompeo, has distinguished himself in Mr. Trump’s eyes by talking up a Trumpian, America First view of the world (see Lexington). The result may well be a more co-ordinated policy, with fewer public rifts between the State Department and the White House. But when you look at the two biggest tests facing American foreign policy, the new set-up does not inspire confidence.

The first of these is North Korea. Mr. Trump’s decision to kick-start negotiations by talking directly to Mr. Kim Jong Un is unconventional. A photo-op with the American President is a great prize for Mr. Kim and, rather than holding it out as a reward, Mr. Trump has chosen to give it away cheap. That is not necessarily a bad idea, given that other approaches have failed and that merely talking is a chance for him to reinforce deterrence by setting out his red lines.


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The trouble is that, whereas the talks aimed at ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons will be delicate, complicated and technical, Mr. Trump is impulsive and self-indulgent—as this week’s sacking of Mr. Tillerson showed. Mastering the specifications of the North’s programme and knowing how to blunt it require deep expertise. Any deal to ensure that the North does not cheat, as it has so often before, will need to be thorough and enduring. America must not enhance its own security at the cost of lower security for its allies in South Korea and Japan. And if the talks should come to nothing, as is likely, both sides will need to be sure that the bad blood does not lead to conflict.

The combination, to put it mildly, sits ill with Mr Trump’s style of government. In a properly run administration, the fiddly stuff could be left to underlings. Yet America has no ambassador to South Korea and no under-secretary for arms control. Even if it did, it is not clear that Mr. Trump would give them the time of day. He shows every sign of thinking that he has the flair to broker a breakthrough all by himself. There is a risk Mr. Pompeo would seek to flatter his boss by agreeing.

By a curious symmetry, the second test of American policy involves a nuclear deal that Mr. Trump seems determined to wreck. In May he is due to decide whether to stick with the agreement that curbs Iran’s nuclear programme or pull out. Mr. Pompeo, unlike Mr. Tillerson, is a longtime opponent, as are many Republicans. A pull-out is therefore likely.

That would be a mistake. When it comes to deals, Mr. Trump always believes that he can get a better one—especially if they were negotiated by his predecessor, Mr. Barack Obama. But the Iran deal is already the result of hard-fought trade-offs. The chances that it can be substantially renegotiated are slim indeed. Opening it up in the hope that America can expand it to force Iran to limit its regional ambitions is almost certain to fail.

If America walks away, its European allies will stick with the deal but they will conclude that Mr. Trump puts a low value on the transatlantic alliance. The nuclear agreement may not collapse immediately, but the odds would increase of a nuclear arms-race in the Middle East, as Saudi Arabia and Egypt began to prepare for the day when Iran had the bomb. And because of the symmetry, Mr. Kim would surely be less willing to think he could trust an agreement struck with Mr. Trump.

It’s simple really

To hope that Mr. H.R. McMaster, the National Security Adviser, who may shortly be fired himself, or Mr. James Mattis, the Defence Secretary, can be relied on to constrain the president is to clutch at straws. Mr. Trump does not have a foreign policy so much as a worldview rooted in grievance and a belief that others must lose for America to win. He has his tariffs, his talks with North Korea and maybe soon a Middle East peace plan. The world is about to witness Mr.Trump unbound. What could go wrong?

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “After Rexit”

Rex Tillerson Fired

March 14, 2018

Rex Tillerson Fired

by John Cassidy

In the unique and alarming context of the Trump Administration, Rex Tillerson, the departing Secretary of State, seemed like a stabilizing and independent-minded presence.

In the unique and alarming context of the Trump Administration, Rex Tillerson, the departing Secretary of State, seemed like a stabilizing and independent-minded presence.

On Monday, Rex Tillerson, the departing Secretary of State, cut short a visit to East Africa to fly back to Washington. Before he left, he remarked that the nerve-gas attack recently carried out on a former Russian spy in Salisbury, England, was a “really egregious act,” but he also said it wasn’t entirely clear who was responsible. Later on Monday, though, the State Department issued a statement in which Tillerson expressed his “full confidence” in the British government’s assessment that the Russian state was almost certainly the culprit. (In the House of Commons on Monday, Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, said it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible.)

“There is never a justification for this type of attack—the attempted murder of a private citizen on the soil of a sovereign nation—and we are outraged that Russia appears to have again engaged in such behavior,” Tillerson’s statement said. “From Ukraine to Syria—and now the UK—Russia continues to be an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens. We agree that those responsible—both those who committed the crime and those who ordered it—must face appropriately serious consequences. We stand in solidarity with our Allies in the United Kingdom and will continue to coordinate closely our responses.”

This was arguably the strongest condemnation of Russian behavior that the Trump Administration has ever issued. And it turned out to be one of Tillerson’s final official acts as Secretary of State. At 8:44 A.M. on Tuesday, Donald Trump announced Tillerson’s firing on Twitter. “Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State,” Trump wrote. “He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!”

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President Donald Trump and Mr. Mike Pompeo

Some of Trump’s aides immediately insisted to reporters that the President hadn’t dismissed Tillerson because of the Russia statement. Citing multiple White House officials, the Washington Post reported that the White House informed the Secretary of State on Friday that he was going to be ousted. Zeke Miller, of the Associated Press, subsequently filled out this narrative, reporting via Twitter, “WH official says chief of staff John Kelly called Tillerson Friday and again on Saturday. Both calls to Tillerson, the official says, warned that Trump was about to take imminent action if he did not step aside. When Tillerson didn’t act, Trump fired him.” In brief remarks to reporters, Trump said he had been thinking about replacing Tillerson for “a long time,” because “We were not thinking the same.” He also said Tillerson “will be much happier now.”

At least one of Tillerson’s aides pushed back against this White House narrative, however. Elise Labott, CNN’s global-affairs correspondent, reported that Tillerson only found out from Trump’s tweet that he was fired. Josh Lederman, of the A.P., reported, via Twitter, “We got off the plane with Tillerson less than four hours ago. There was zero indication on flight home that this was imminent.” The White House reacted quickly to this counter-narrative. By early afternoon, the White House had fired the aide, Steve Goldstein, who contradicted its version of what had happened.

If Tillerson did know that the President was about to can him, his statement on Russia was perhaps a final act of defiance. On Tuesday, the Russian government again denied responsibility for the attack in Salisbury and said it wouldn’t respond to British claims unless it was provided with samples of the nerve agent used. Trump also spoke with May, finally, and, after the call, the White House issued a statement saying he agreed with her “that the Government of the Russian Federation must provide unambiguous answers regarding how this chemical weapon, developed in Russia, came to be used in the United Kingdom.” However, the statement stopped short of saying Trump agreed with the British assessment that the Russian government was very likely responsible.

It is certainly true that Tillerson’s departure wasn’t entirely unexpected. Although he has avoided criticizing Trump publicly, behind the scenes the former ExxonMobil C.E.O. hasn’t hidden his contempt for the President. Last summer, after Trump gave a wacko speech to the Boy Scouts of America, an organization Tillerson used to lead, Tillerson reportedly came close to resigning. In October, NBC News reported that after a meeting at which Trump called for a tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, Tillerson referred to him as a “moron” in a conversation with other officials. One of the NBC reporters would clarify that Tillerson used the term “fucking moron.”

After those revelations, which Tillerson didn’t explicitly deny, there were frequent suggestions that Trump was considering replacing him with Pompeo, a former Republican congressman. Despite this acrimony, the fact remains that Trump announced Tillerson’s firing barely twelve hours after he had forcefully sided with the British government against the Kremlin. Either Trump decided that Tillerson’s show of defiance was the last straw, or he was oblivious (or indifferent) to the impression that firing him at this juncture would create.

To be sure, there were policy differences between Trump and Tillerson—many of them. In addition to the Iranian nuclear deal, where Tillerson was more supportive than the President, trade and North Korea come to mind immediately. Last week, Tillerson reportedly warned White House officials that Trump’s proposal to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports would endanger U.S. national security. On Thursday, just hours before Trump agreed to meet with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Tillerson told the reporters traveling with him in Africa, “We’re a long way from negotiations.”

Maybe that’s why Trump decided to act now, although it wouldn’t explain why he waited five days and then made the announcement on Twitter. It’s also possible that another factor played into his timing. Early Tuesday morning, the Washington Post reported that Roger Stone, the Republican dirty trickster and longtime Trump adviser, told an associate in the spring of 2016 that “he had learned from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that his organization had obtained emails that would torment senior Democrats such as John Podesta, then campaign chairman for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.” This conversation took place “before it was publicly known that hackers had obtained the emails of Podesta and of the Democratic National Committee,” the story also noted.

As Reince Priebus, the former White House chief of staff, told Fox News’s Laura Ingraham, Trump pays a great deal of attention to how the daily news narrative evolves. After the Post’s scoop appeared, other news organizations leapt on it, and Stone’s name trended on Twitter. In all likelihood, the Post’s story, with its implication of possible collusion, would have dominated the day in cable news. But once the news of Tillerson’s firing broke, it slipped down the home pages, and Stone dropped off the trending list.

Whatever really happened, the fact is that Tillerson is gone—the first Cabinet secretary ever to be fired by tweet. Given his effort to gut the State Department, and the departure of many senior diplomats with distinguished careers in the department, Tillerson’s fall likely won’t be lamented in Foggy Bottom, or in many other places. But in the unique and alarming context of this Presidency, he seemed like a stabilizing and independent-minded presence. At least, he wasn’t a Trump flunky or a Bannonite ethno-nationalist.

With Tillerson’s departure so closely following the resignation of Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs executive who served as Trump’s senior economic adviser, the circle around the President is getting even tighter. Pompeo, Tillerson’s replacement, is a Trump loyalist who has tried to downplay Russian interference in the 2016 election. And so it goes on.

John Cassidy has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1995. He also writes a column about politics, economics, and more for

Trade is the Republican Party’s last stand

March 12, 2018

Trade is the Republican Party’s last stand

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria

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The tussle over tariffs is the most significant political battle taking place in America right now – much broader than a dispute over steel and aluminum imports. It is the Republican Party’s last stand against a total takeover by Donald Trump. Having ceded ground to the President on everything from personal character to immigration to entitlement reform, Republican leaders have chosen to draw the line at free trade. If they get rolled on this, Trump will have completed the transformation of the party.

“From Adam Smith to Milton Friedman, every great theorist of capitalism has recognized that free trade is at the heart of what makes capitalism work. And they have all pointed out that tariffs are precisely the kind of government intervention – with the state choosing which industries to favor, which companies to reward – that produces inefficiency and corruption. But Republicans are now comfortable with government intervention, as long as it’s for the right people”.–Dr. Fareed Zakaria

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In recent weeks, Trump seems to have remembered that he is a populist or at least is playing one on TV. After campaigning as the tribune of the forgotten working class, he handed over his presidency to the establishment wing of the Republican Party, which proceeded to attack Obamacare, roll back regulations and pass a huge tax cut for companies and wealthy Americans. But perhaps to shore up his base before the midterm elections, or because he does actually believe some of his own rhetoric, he is now moving hard on tariffs – and also immigration.

As is often the case, Trump is more in line with his party’s base than most of its leaders. A recent Quinnipiac University poll finds that voters, like the Republican establishment, overwhelmingly oppose Trump’s tariffs. But most Republican voters support them. In fact, over the last decade, Republican support for free trade has dropped a staggering 20 points (while Democratic support has risen by 15). This is one of the sharpest reversals on major public policy recorded in recent history.

The new Republican Party is coming into view. It is a party skeptical about free markets. It is important to remember that it is not really possible to be in favor of capitalism and against free trade. From Adam Smith to Milton Friedman, every great theorist of capitalism has recognized that free trade is at the heart of what makes capitalism work. And they have all pointed out that tariffs are precisely the kind of government intervention – with the state choosing which industries to favor, which companies to reward – that produces inefficiency and corruption. But Republicans are now comfortable with government intervention, as long as it’s for the right people.

It is also now a party that has developed a contempt for experts and expert analysis. In 1980, with liberalism ideologically smug and dominant, Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan remarked that all the new and interesting policy ideas were coming from people like William F. Buckley and Irving Kristol on the right. Today, the Republican Party is led intellectually by the likes of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

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Consider that Trump’s tariffs are opposed by a remarkable array of scholars across the political spectrum, from the conservative Heritage Foundation to the libertarian Cato Institute to the center-left Brookings Institution to the left-wing Center for Economic and Policy Research. The White House barely offers serious arguments, instead providing a bogus justification for the tariffs, national security, even though China and Russia supply only a small portion of these goods to the U.S.

Despite research showing that previous protectionist policies have failed, that the steel industry has lost more jobs due to efficiency and automation than to trade, and that preserving one job in the steel or automobile industries through tariffs costs consumers a whopping $1.5 million, administration supporters no longer even offer a response. The data is simply dismissed as partisan spin or fake news.

Finally, the GOP is being transformed into a party that is hostile to foreigners and foreign countries. Under Ronald Reagan, the Republicans were the party of a generous immigration policy, strong alliances and faith in the advancement of democracy around the world.

Today, the party’s base doesn’t like foreigners or foreign countries. Even traditional allies like the Europeans are increasingly viewed with suspicion. It is bizarre to have chosen tariffs that mostly threaten American allies like Canada, the E.U., South Korea and Mexico. Trade does produce disruptions, especially severe ones in recent decades. The most sensible, cost-effective way to deal with them would be to provide subsidies to workers who lose their jobs because of trade, and invest in large scale retraining efforts. But that doesn’t quite have the bite that attacking foreigners and stoking trade conflict does.

Having transformed the party’s views on issues as diverse as immigration, fiscal discipline, foreign policy and law enforcement, if Trump wins the battle over trade with his party, he will have won the war. The Republican Party will be history. And given his long-demonstrated preferences in this regard, who knows, he will probably want to rename it the Trump Party.

Fareed Zakaria is published weekly by THE DAILY STAR.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 12, 2018, on page 7.

The Trump Distraction Technique

March 12, 2018

No, over there! Our case-by-case guide to the Trump distraction technique

Some sort of problem rocking your presidency? Simple – create a distraction! Adam Gabbatt explores Donald Trump’s apparent skills at changing the news


‘Look, look, over there!’ Donald Trump during the Presidential campaign. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters


In the first two months of his presidency Donald Trump has proved himself to be – if nothing else – a master of distraction.

His critics say that Trump’s chaotic time in charge has followed a now familiar pattern. Bad – or embarrassing – news emerges, then Trump either blurts out some tweets, or makes spurious claims elsewhere, in an attempt to change the narrative.

Here are some of the President’s finest obfuscations.

Makes dubious claims about inauguration attendance, distracts with even more dubious claims about voter fraud

The crowd at the inauguration of Donald Trump, and voters in the 2016 presidential election
The crowd at the inauguration of Donald Trump and voters in the 2016 presidential election. Composite: EPA & Getty Images


Trump spent the first couple of days of his presidency obsessing over the number of people who attended his inauguration. On Saturday 21 January, his first full day in office, he used a speech at the CIA’s headquarters to claim between 1 million and 1.5 million people had turned out, which contradicted photos showing large empty spaces on the National Mall.

The next day, the White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, repeated Trump’s claims, telling the media that the new president had drawn “the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe”. Spicer’s statement was treated with suspicion by the media, particularly when photographs of the crowd at Barack Obama’s inauguration were compared – favorably – with those for Trump.

The Trump administration’s claims, and the evidence offered against them, overshadowed any actual work the president had been undertaking during his first days in office. In addition, the row probably served as a blow to the ego of the president – who is known to take an interest in his popularity.

Soon the conversation shifted, however, when Trump falsely claimed that millions of people voted illegally in the presidential election – costing him the popular vote. The president tweeted that he “will be asking for a major investigation” into what he perceived as voter fraud.

Politicians from both sides of the aisle expressed scepticism over Trump’s claims, and little has been heard of the investigation since. On 15 March Politico reported that prominent Republicans were “breathing a sigh of relief” that Trump had not pursued his pledge to investigate.

Botches executive order on immigration, Australian PM takes a hit

Protestors over the travel ban, and Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull
Protesters over the travel ban and the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. Composite: AP & Rex Features


Trump issued an executive order on Friday 27 January that indefinitely barred refugees from entering the US and prevented people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. The order sparked chaos across the US as people were detained at airports. Dozens of lawsuits were filed against the order, which was criticized by Democrats, Republicans and human rights organizations.

Whether it was deliberate or not, on 2 February a new controversy emerged to distract from the botched executive order.

The Washington Post reported that Trump had hung up on the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, 25 minutes into a call that was meant to last an hour. Trump had been upset when Turnbull brought up a pre-existing agreement between the US and Australia that said the US would accept 1,250 refugees, the Post wrote.

It drew attention away from the immigration ban controversy and the image of the tough-talking president berating the leader of a foreign country is likely to have gone down well with Trump’s base. Indeed, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that there was speculation in Canberra that Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, had leaked the call.

Michael Flynn resigns after scandal, Trump announces campaign-style rally

Michael Flynn and a Trump rally in Melbourne, Florida on 18 February 2017
Michael Flynn and a Trump rally in Melbourne, Florida, on 18 February 2017. Composite: Getty Images


On Monday 13 February Michael Flynn resigned as Trump’s national security adviser. A series of leaks divulged that he had discussed sanctions with the Russian Ambassador to Washington, then had lied about having those discussions – including lying to Vice-President Mike Pence.

This was not good for Trump, whose ties to Russia were – and still are – under scrutiny.

Trump’s response – less than a month after having taken office – was to organize a campaign-style rally in a friendly location: Melbourne, Florida. The president tweeted about it on Wednesday 15 February, and by Saturday was being cheered by 9,000 people.

Responds to claims administration is in chaos with chaotic 77-minute press conference

Andrew Puzder and journalists at the Trump press conference at the White House on 16 February 2016
Andrew Puzder and journalists at the Trump press conference at the White House on 16 February 2016. Composite: AP & Getty Images


It never rains but it pours. The same day Trump was organizing that Florida rally, a new problem emerged when Andrew Puzder, the president’s choice to run the Department of Labor, abruptly withdrew his nomination for the post. On the same day Trump casually dropped a decade-long US commitment to establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The developments – along with the earlier Flynn resignation – prompted many to wonder about the state of Trump’s administration.

The solution: Trump held a sprawling, freeform press conference. As the Guardian’s Tom McCarthy wrote: “Trump touted his work as president, denied ties to Russia, attacked the media, claimed to be popular and obsessed over Hillary Clinton.”

The bizarre nature of the presser – at one point Trump insisted he was “not ranting and raving”, and at another he claimed his administration is “running like a fine-tuned machine” – kept columnists and talking heads busy for days.

Jeff Sessions misleads Senate committee, Trump accuses Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower

Jeff Sessions; “wiretapping at Trump Tower”
Jeff Sessions and ‘wiretapping at Trump Tower’. Composite: AP & Getty Images


After a speech to Congress on Tuesday 28 February that was hailed – by some – as quite good, Trump was on the up. But 24 hours later it emerged that his Attorney-General, Jeff Sessions, had met the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, twice during the presidential campaign.

This was a problem, because Sessions had not disclosed the conversations when asked, under oath, about contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia during his Senate confirmation hearing.

But no matter, because two days later Trump came out with possibly his biggest distraction yet. On the morning of Saturday 4 March the president sent out tweets claiming Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower.

Trump offered no evidence at the time, and has offered no evidence since, but the furore obscured, at least temporarily, the questions about connections between his campaign and Russia.

Utter Chaos and blatant Corruption of Trump Presidency

March 3, 2018

Robinson: The utter chaos and blatant corruption of Trump Presidency is unprecedented

If Barack Obama had displayed such cavalier disregard for previous policy positions and total ignorance of basic facts, we’d be in the middle of Civil War II. Trump barely gets a shrug

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It’s All in the Family–Nepotism

The ceaseless barrage of news — both real and fake — from the Trump administration can be numbing, so it’s important to step back every once in a while and look at the big picture: Never have we seen such utter chaos and blatant corruption.

None of what’s happening is normal and none of it should be acceptable. Life is imitating art: What we have is less a presidency than a cheesy reality show, set in a great stately house, with made-for-television histrionics, constant backstabbing and major characters periodically getting booted out.

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Hope Hicks–The Pretty Woman in The White House–Resigns her post

Hope Hicks, the White House Communications Director,   decided  Wednesday to self-eject. Was it because she spent the previous day testifying on Capitol Hill, and was forced to admit having told “white lies” for President Trump? Was it because the man she had been dating, Rob Porter, lost his important White House position when The Daily Mail revealed he faced multiple allegations of wife-beating? Or was Hicks simply exhausted?

Image result for Rob PorterRob Porter–The Alleged Wife Beater


Porter’s job involved controlling the flow of paperwork, some of it classified and extremely sensitive, to the President. Because of those abuse allegations, however, he couldn’t get a permanent top-secret security clearance. That was bad enough, but later we learned that dozens of White House officials, perhaps 100 or more, were working with only interim clearances, not permanent ones. Their access to secret information was cut off by Chief of Staff John Kelly — but only after all of this had become public.

Among those now with limited access is Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, whose heavily indebted real estate empire and grudging disclosure of his many foreign contacts worried FBI investigators. Kushner is a senior adviser to the president whose many assignments include forging peace in the Middle East — but who now is not cleared for documents or meetings that discuss what’s really happening in the Middle East or anywhere else. So why is he still there?

Why was he there in the first place? Because of Trump’s appalling nepotism.

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Trump also brought his daughter Ivanka into the White House as an adviser. What does she do? What qualifies her to do it? In a real administration, conservative or liberal, Jared’s office and Ivanka’s office would be occupied by experienced professionals who actually know something about diplomacy or administration or some government function.

According to The New York Times, Kushner set up White House meetings for two business executives whose private equity firm and bank later made loans to the Kushner Companies real estate firm totaling more than $500 million. Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” was a cruel joke. He has expanded it into a vast protected wetland, to be enjoyed by friends and family.

Never before have we had a president openly at war with his own attorney general. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether Trump’s attempts to force Attorney General Jeff Sessions out of his job last summer were part of a pattern of attempted obstruction of justice. According to The Post, Trump’s private name for Sessions is “Mr. Magoo,” a baby-boomer reference that younger readers will have to Google.

Trump began his day Wednesday by tweeting that a decision Sessions recently made was “DISGRACEFUL!” Sessions responded by issuing a statement strongly rebutting Trump’s criticism. And that evening, Sessions was photographed at a posh Washington restaurant dining with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — who oversees the Mueller investigation — and Solicitor General Noel Francisco. If it wasn’t a deliberate display of unity at the Justice Department, it sure looked like one.

Also on Wednesday, Trump convened a televised negotiating session with members of Congress on the subject of gun violence. To the escalating horror of Republicans present, he heartily endorsed several Democratic gun control proposals — and then went much further, saying that in the case of individuals who are mentally unstable, authorities should “take the guns first, go through due process second.”

If Barack Obama had ever said such a thing, we’d be in the middle of Civil War II.

Any other president who displayed such cavalier disregard for previous policy positions and total ignorance of basic facts would have provoked an uproar. Trump barely gets a shrug. Nobody expects him to be consistent. Nobody expects him to know anything about anything. He is defining the presidency down in a way that we must not tolerate.

I spent years as a foreign correspondent in Latin America. To say we are being governed like a banana republic is an insult to banana republics. It’s that bad, and no one should pretend otherwise.