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Posts tagged as “Trump”

Silence is unacceptable


From the outset, Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin was a recipe for disaster. Now Trump has made the situation much worse by refusing to reveal what was discussed at that meeting. In the meantime, the Russian media is having a field day spilling selected beans – information regarding Syria and arms control for instance.

Recently, the Russian ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said that Trump and Putin had entered into “important verbal agreements.” No one this side of the pond knows what these alleged agreements entail. Even the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, has admitted he hasn’t a clue what Antonov is talking about.

The president does not have a blank check to do as he pleases in the realm of foreign affairs. Our founders very purposefully divided responsibility for foreign relations between the executive and legislative branches. They had ousted one king and were not about to live under the rule of another.

Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution enumerates congressional powers including regulating commerce with foreign nations, declaring war, raising and supporting armies, providing and maintaining a navy, and making rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces. Congress also has the authority to lay and collect taxes. Article 2 grants the president command of the military. The president also is empowered to make treaties and appoint diplomats, but only with the approval of the Senate.

Thus, the congressional role in shaping and implementing our nation’s foreign policy is substantive and substantial. The president has no right to usurp it. Our allies shouldn’t be forced to guess at what Trump might have agreed to at the summit. Neither should Congress. Neither should the American people.

This charade has to stop. In an utter abnegation of responsibility, Congressional Republicans shut down Democratic efforts to subpoena the American translator, the only other American in the Trump-Putin meeting. Their cowardice and submission to Trump is exceeded only by Trump’s cowardice and submission to Putin.

There is a widespread and growing belief that our president got played in Helsinki. In response, Republicans have ducked for cover and run. Among those are the members of Idaho’s congressional delegation. After the president's shameful capitulation to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Republican senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch issued woefully anemic statements. Each merely acknowledged that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election and observed that Russia is no friend of the United States.

There was no condemnation of the president’s fawning over Putin, not a peep of outrage over his defense of the Russian attack on our country, or even a passing nod to their oaths to defend our nation against all enemies foreign and domestic. Republican strategist Rick Wilson calls this kind of pathetic response on the part of GOP office holders, the "furrowed brow and deep concern act." And it is totally inadequate to the moment.

For some time, many have wondered what Putin is holding over the president to make him behave in such a subservient and unprincipled manner, seemingly selling out his country to curry favor with the Russian dictator.

Now that same concern should also apply to members of the Republican majority in Congress. In the utter absence of bipartisan action, it falls to congressional Democrats to use every tool in their toolbox to demand transparency and accountability from this president. Their minority status makes the task daunting. But they must force the issue. Faithfulness to the Constitution requires nothing less.

Russia wins again


Thanks to Russian interference, the United States failed in an effort to strike a blow against mothers’ milk at a United Nations conference this spring.

The New York Times reported on July 8 that the U.S. delegation to a World Health Assembly meeting tried unsuccessfully to water down a resolution supporting breast-feeding.

Our delegation was apparently concerned that if mothers fed their babies breast milk it would cut down on sales of good old-fashioned formula made from the finest chemicals in America. So, our representatives tried to strike resolution language urging governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding.” Them were obviously fightin’ words.

Just because a long string of U.S. Presidents has supported U.N. breast-feeding resolutions, does not mean that our country should not re-examine this issue, as we have almost every other health and foreign policy issue in the last few months. We may find that mom’s milk, and even apple pie, are no longer good for America. After all, if we now expect American agriculture to stand by while its industry is devastated by destructive trade wars, can’t we expect our infants to contribute to American superiority by consuming factory-made food?

There was some resistance to our move so we had to get tough. Ecuador was the culprit promoting the resolution in support of the milk of human kindness, so we had to put the kibosh on that little pipsqueak country. According to the Times, we told them that if they did not drop the resolution, the U.S. “would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid.” Hey, if we can kick Canada’s fanny for our favorable trade surplus with that country, we can certainly beat up on a country whose location most Americans don’t even know. Ecuador dropped the resolution like a hot potato.

About a dozen other nations, including some African sh__hole countries, were afraid to step forward to push the resolution for fear of retaliation. That shows we can bully these little dots on the map into submission.

Some of the delegates whined that mothers’ milk provides infants with nutrients essential for their development, as well as hormones and antibodies that protect them from infectious diseases. They pointed to a British study which concluded that universal breast-feeding would prevent 800,000 child deaths a year around the world. Mixing formula with contaminated water in under-developed countries can kill infants. Our representatives were not swayed. They knew that the $70 billion baby food industry brings in more dollars than any number of mothers, and that our drug makers are more than happy to take care of all those diseases.

When it looked like the resolution was in trouble, the supporters brought in the big gun, the kryptonite to our Superman—Vladimir Putin. The Russians stepped forward to sponsor the resolution, we grudgingly submitted, and it passed with overwhelming support. A Russian delegate was quoted as saying, “We’re not trying to be a hero here, but we feel that it is wrong when a big country tries to push around some very small countries, especially on an issue that is really important for the rest of the world.”

Well said, Ivan.

I hope Putin does not give our leader a tongue-lashing over this.

Bullying the neighbor


This past week’s clash between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump at the G7 Conference in Quebec has an historical context.

For some reason more than one American president has felt he could conduct himself boorishly towards a Canadian Prime Minister. Donald Trump is not the first nor will he be the last.

Lyndon Baines Johnson (1963-1969, the 36th president) still holds the prize for unpardonable behavior that went far beyond some insulting tweets.

During the mid-60s LBJ invited the then Prime Minister, Lester Pearson (1963-1968, the 19th Prime Minister), to be his weekend guest at Camp David. Just prior to their gathering Pearson had made some comments critical of an escalation in the Vietnam war effort undertaken by Johnson.

Pearson had barely left his helicopter to head to his assigned cabin when there came this loud voice alledgely yelling “Where is that little s.o.b.?” Johnson, who was literally a foot taller than Pearson, then walked up to Pearson and as a stunned staff and aides looked on¸ literally picked up Pearson by the lapel of his jacket, stuck his face into Pearson’s and yelled “How dare you ____ in my nest?

That has to be the nadir of the president/prime minister relationship.

Fast forward to today and Canada is America’s number one trading partner and over the years the two countries have enjoyed mutual prosperity brought on by items like the North American Free Trade Agreement. Despite this economic linkage few Americans can tell you one single fact about Canada except that it produces excellent hockey players.

Idaho shares a border with British Columbia of about 75 miles. You may think that we really don’t have a dog in any trade disputes with our neighbors to the north, but you would be wrong.

When the exchange rate is favorable many Canadians do their shopping in the Sandpoint-Coeur d’Alene-Spokane corridor. Those that grow impatient with waiting for needed surgeries under Canada’s “single-payer” health care sysem, and can afford it, come to the states for needed and timely medical procedures.

Right now there are two processes underway that all Idahoans should be following. One has to do with trade and the other with the renegotiation of the 1964 Columbia River treaty between Canada and the U.S.

After years of watching softwood timber from a subsidized forest industry in British Columbia undercut U.S.companies, the American industry sought a ruling from the Commerce Deparment that slapped a variable import duty of as much as 15% on some Canadian firms.

The Canadians immediately “challenged” the math and so the dispute is in the courts. Should the duty stay in place this willl level the playing field and should benefit firms like Idaho’s Idaho Forest Group.

Of even more importance to Idahoans is the start of renegotiations on the 1964 Coordination Agreement that has BPA working with BC Hydro to coordinate river flows and dam operations in both countries that result in maximized power sales. Of importance here are three reservoirs in Canada that all BPA customers and even private power interests bill their customers in order to pay Canada $250 to $350 million a year for access to the stored water when needed.

Americans think they are paying too much and Canadians think they are not paying enough for the access. Negotiators have many other issues to iron out, such as flow levels that would enhance salmon migration. They have until the current treaty’s expiration date of 2024.

My money is on Canada emerging with an even stronger hand simply because they control the upstream.

My money is also on Justin Trudeau’s cool and smarts prevailing over Trump’s bluster and ignorance. Trudeau will take a multifaceted team approach commensurate with the complexities of trade tariffs whereas Trump will remain a one man band.

Trudeau and company easily grasp the salient fact that both America’s and Canada’s economies are so closely integrated, and will grow ever more so, that attempts to levy tariffs by either side is tantamount to shooting yourself in your foot.

One other thing for sure: you won’t see Trump trying to pick up Trudeau by the lapel of his jacket. Trump and his boorish conduct probably guaranteed Trudeau’s re-election next year also.

The split


Here, on Tuesday night and since, is a map to ponder: The Idaho split between counties whose Republicans voted for businessman Donald Trump and those who preferred Senator Ted Cruz.

I’ve been trying to align the collection of counties for either candidate with any other kind of lineup, and nothing obvious suggests itself. This may take a little creativity.

There were a dozen Trump counties, scooped out of the center of the state: from the north, Shoshone, Clearwater, Lewis, Idaho, Lemhi, Adams, Valley, Custer, Boise, Elmore, Blaine and Camas. They occupy roughly the geographic center of the state and its most lightly populated regions too; the state’s largest wilderness areas are there, but not one of the state’s 16 largest cities. (Mountain Home was the largest city in a county that went for Trump.)

But, although Cruz won all of the state’s larger cities, many of the state’s smallest, most sparsely populated and most rural counties, like Clark, Oneida, Owyhee, Lincoln, Butte and Adams, also were Cruz counties.

Analyses of counties that were more or less sparsely populated, or included more or fewer college graduates, didn’t seem to match closely with the county breakdowns.

The Trump counties included the state’s most Democratic county, Blaine, and one or two other relatively Democratic counties (Shoshone, Lewis), but Blaine Democrats are quite different from Shoshone Democrats (or those in most of the other counties). And most of these counties are as Republican as any in Idaho. Trump’s message on the economy and joblessness may have hit in some of these places, though, since counties like Adams, Clearwater and Shoshone have had especially consistent struggles with unemployment for a couple of decades.

The 32 Cruz counties occupy most of southern Idaho, including nearly all the areas touched by an interstate or near a regional center, and the north along Highway 95 and the Washington border from Lewiston to Canada. These regions, north and south, are very different kinds of areas.

The closest to uniformity was the fourth-place finish for Ohio Governor John Kasich in every county but Blaine – Idaho’s most Democratic.

The speculation that Mormons would tend to support Florida Senator Marco Rubio came to little, apart from the point that all of the counties where Rubio reached second place – like Bonneville, Bannock, Madison, Jefferson, Teton, and Oneida – were bunched in eastern Idaho, mostly in counties with a very strong LDS presence. Rubio’s stop in Idaho Falls, his one counterpart stop alongside Boise in the weekend before the election, was surely no accident. Nor were the endorsements from people either leading in (businessman Frank VanderSloot) or close to (Senator Jim Risch) the LDS community.

So why did Cruz prevail in those areas? The guess here is that last week was a bad news stretch for Rubio, and word spread that his chances of getting the nomination were crashing. That would have led to a choice between the ideological and church-oriented Cruz and the more free-form (and more secular) angry Trump. (Kasich, widely perceived – however inaccurately – as a moderate, likely wasn’t a serious factor.) In that framework, the choice for many Mormons probably would have become clear.

Looked at that way, from a social and organizational point of view, the map starts to make more sense. The areas with large conservative (but not party) organizations, and those including the larger church organizations, tend to match up well with the Cruz counties. The small town areas relatively out of the pull of regional centers tended to go for Trump.

What will be worth watching is this: Will different kind of political appeals, different kinds of politics and campaigning, start to matter in these two types of areas?