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The twists and turns (and fake news) behind Russia is admittedly hard to follow.  The whole thing appears an alibi and distraction from the fact that Hillary lost fair and square; indeed, she lost when everyone on the inside was pulling for her:  Obama, the DNC, the media, and the FBI, whose job was to investigate her.

The latest turns are as follows.  Some people in the transition team either reached out, or were reached out to, by the Russians and nothing came of it.

Consider why the Russians would need to reach out to Jared Kushner (I’m not his biggest fan) if they had an understanding with Trump and had colluded with him and his team.  It makes no sense.   Why wouldn’t they just use whatever lines of communication were created to pursue the alleged collusion.  Also, I have no particular sense of how customary it is for transition teams to talk to their counterparts in other countries.  Maybe it’s totally normal.  In any case, it’s not illegal.  Even collusion wouldn’t be.  This whole hullabaloo does not involve any defined criminal act.  Nonetheless, no such collusion has been identified, as partisans with no reason to do Trump a solid like Diane Feinstein and Maxine Waters have admitted.

The other twist is that FBI director Comey a got his hands on a memo that supposedly originated in Russia and reported that Loretta Lynch’s DOJ would go easy on Hillary and referenced another unseen email, that may or may not exist, in which Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the disgraced ex-DNC chair, said to a third party that she had received these assurances.  So Comey, in order not to make it look like there was some inside deal for Hillary and the DNC, instead gave her a pass on her criminal handling of classified information, made up a nonexistent “intent” requirement for a statute that is triggered by mere nelgigence, and inappropriately held a press conference, which unlike any alleged collusion, undoubtedly did have some effect on the election (and surely an indictment would also have had an even bigger effect).

Why does giving someone explicitly what they supposedly got implicitly through inside dealing take away the cloud of improper influence?  After all, whether it was Lynch or Comey, they both worked for Obama, neither had true independence, and knew, whether intended or not, that whatever they did may impact the election.  Indeed, influencing elections by turning candidates who commit crimes into pariahs seems an inherent part of the job when public corruption is involved.  Does anyone remember the Abscam Sting?  Similarly, why does hiding the fact of the dubious provenance of this “Russian email” from Congressional oversight and the public somehow advance the cause of the FBI’s reputation for integrity?

Comey strikes me as very political, without being very ideological.  And he strikes me as smart, but not wise, to the point where he thinks he can get away with half-truths that in fact are destined to come to light. During the First Bush Administration he used his temporary role in the DOJ to undo a surveillance program.  He gave briefings on his investigations without first going to his “customer” at the DOJ in the Hillary email investigation.  And he has invented and also hidden the reasons for his actions without explaining them completely and truthfully to the Congress.

The whole Russia story is collapsing because it was always designed to remove the focus from a failed campaign.  Yes Russia–like the U.S.–has probably engaged in cyberspying on American institutions and had certain hopes for election outcomes overseas.  That is troubling and should be dealt with if true, but a sense of proportion is completely lacking because (a) everyone doing the reporting hates Trump and considers his election illegitimate, to the point where impeachment talk began before he was even sworn in, and (b) Russia is a right-leaning Christian nation with a non-globalist identity, with which the far right in America and Europe has a certain affection, and the goal of the E.U., NATO, and a great many parts of the American government is to be left-leaning, globalist, and anti-Christian.  Thus, Russia has become the enemy of the left, who made numerous excuses for “Russia” when it was the leftist, globalist, anti-Christian Soviet Union.

P.S. One of the other strange byways in this whole mess is Comey’s “memos to file” that have been reported in the news without having been seen.  In the age of the smart phone, does anyone reading from an email have any credibility when the reporter hasn’t seen it?  It takes two seconds to take a photo of a document and send it.  Without the ability to do that, should any ethical reporter run a story based on someone reading out loud a memo that sits before them during the reading?

Trump is within his rights to share information on threats to civil aviation with the Russians and anyone else.   He has total power to declassify whatever he wants.  And, in this case, it’s the right thing to do.

Think about this:  the Deep State types, whose penchant for secrecy is their chief method of consolidating power and maintaining their prestige, are willing to risk the deaths of civilians and allow blown up airliners to preserve their pet relationships with third party sources of intelligence.  This is reminiscent of Fast and Furious and the FBI’s bungling of the Whitey Bulger investigation, where maintaining sources and gathering intelligence led to toleration of murders and facilitation of serious crimes.

Why isn’t such a breach of “classified information” an obviously sensible move?  ISIS is bad, and if they threaten civil aviation, that information should be shared.  It’s an area of common ground with Russia who, unlike our CIA, has consistently fought ISIS and does not nonsensically oppose ISIS and also oppose ISIS’s biggest enemy, the Assad regime.

Now it turns out McMaster and essentially everyone in the room has conceded that no one told the Russians how this information was gathered.  That is solely from the leaker himself, who thinks this information is so sacrosanct, that he promptly passed the most sensitive aspect–the type of source–along to the Washington Post.  Is this logical?  Only if the goal is not to preserve some secret squirrel information, but rather to delegitimize Trump above all.  Coupled with this Trump hatred, is the “Swamp” aspect of D.C. that Trump campaigned against, which is obtuse about the relative value of preserving the reputation of some intelligence source versus saving the lives of potentially hundreds of civilian airline passengers.

Trump after all logically did criticize the common move of the Obama administration to abjure secrecy and telegraph our military actions, as in the case of the Mosul attack.  Trump, by contrast, didn’t say a word prior to his Syria missile attack.  he just did it.  And, unlike here, the value of secrecy there was pretty obvious, setting aside my other concerns with that attack.

In addition to hating Trump, the real problem I suspect is that this intelligence source (wherever it may be) is supporting ISIS with the tacit connivance of the CIA and the US intelligence community, with the biggest suspects being one of the Gulf States or possibly Israel.  Thus, this source is so deeply in bed with ISIS it knows this type of information, the leak of this information may be connected to this source, and this source knows a lot of other information about ISIS because the source is almost certainly funding and supporting ISIS all along.  That, just like the failure to protect civilians from terrorism, would a real scandal.  Not this phony made up one.

Comey Drama

It’s not too much to ask that the head of the FBI not pursue ad infinitum dubious partisan tales of “Russian hacking” that had nothing to do with the 2016 election.  Part of law enforcement and prosecutorial prerogatives is prioritization.  Since they’ve been at it for months and months and no one has been shown to commit a crime, it seems like it’s going nowhere.  But Comey couldn’t manage that, just as he could not manage to indict Clinton and, most important of all, can’t manage to stay out of the limelight.  I’m glad he’s fired.  Trump needs to clean house of all the permanent government Deep State elements that mean to undo his original agenda.  And Comey, who was concerned above all with portraying himself as the star of the show, is simply not the man for the job.  Some basic loyalty to the elected President by the unelected members of the executive branch is not too much to ask.  Lord knows the generals tripping over themselves to put trannies in the ranks and women on the front lines didn’t have any problem with loyalty when it was combined with media-approved progressive bona fides under the Obama administration.

This article really gets to the heart of the Comey situation and shows how Comey’s ego and love affair with his image had much to do with his downfall.

While Trump may not be governing the way he ran, he is governing in the basic pragmatic Nixonian sense I predicted before the election.  And though a far cry from the nationalist Buchananite we thought we elected, you can’t as a normal Republican say everything he is doing is bad.  For example, this week the House repealed Obamcare after an earlier setback.  This is undoubtedly good.

His mere presence and green light to law enforcement has done much to reduce illegal immigration.

Gorsuch is on the Supreme Court.

The Chinese are doing some of our dirty work to tamp down the crazy Kim Jong Un regime in North Korea.

Blacks and leftists are no longer rioting, which they did repeatedly with the Obama administration’s explicit support for their goals and tactics.

Canada and Mexico are willing to renegotiate NAFTA. 

While he launched a fusillade at Syria, he did not double down by suggesting a large ground force.  This, however, remains a worrisome area (because the generals are in charge, and nowadays they’re all interventionists of one kind or another).

And, most important of all, Hillary Clinton is not president!!!

It appears Trump’s revolutionary movement and radical words have been coopted by official Washington in fewer than 100 days.  A man who ran on the ideas and themes of Pat Buchanan has quickly morphed into Marco Rubio or, even worse, Jeb!  These men, decent standard-issue GOP politicians, stand for what is becoming almost a caricature, the chief goals of the Republican establishment, which consists of roughly of two things:  (1) the interests of the business community, chiefly in lower taxes, cheap labor, and made-to-order regulations and (2) the bellicose pseudo-nationalism of the neoconservative wing of the party.

We saw this with George W, who ran on a platform of foreign policy “humility” and soon decided the way to respond to an attack from a stateless group based in Afghanistan was to attack Iraq and transform it into a democracy.

We saw it during his presidency as well in the giveaways to Wall Street in the form of low interest rates, high immigration, and reduced regulation.  While a few symbolic bones were thrown to the “religious right,” little really happened to reverse the decline of standards in the culture.

And we saw this same basic platform in the candidacies of McCain, who emphasized the foreign policy wing right when it was going out of fashion, and Romney, who represented the business wing and came from it, but never seemed to connect low taxes to the good of workers.  The workers rightly see their challenges increasingly coming in the form of competition from low wage foreigners at home and abroad, which leads to low wages and stagnation.

Trump’s nationalist message resonated.  I’ve argued the trade piece was central to his victory, which was won in contested and previously Democratic-stronghold states in the Midwest.  His immigration position also, while anathema to Washington, proved very popular in Middle America.  Finally, I believe he’ll soon find if we’re embroiled in a real, prolonged, and deadly shooting war in either Syria or North Korea, that Americans view their foreign policy as a means to a prosaic end, namely their own safety and security.

What do we have instead?  When not being buffeted by over-reaching federal judges, the GOP itself is balking at the Border Wall, something that is immensely popular everywhere but DC.  We hear the next big push will be tax cuts.  I’m all for the same, but without spending cuts and jobs, it may do little to help the working class that above all needs the dignity of work on which they can support their families.

The Obamacare replacement appeared more than anything a giveaway to insurance companies, and there seems little appreciation for the difficulty of undoing this expensive system with winners and losers, nor a recognition that the key to health reform is transparency in pricing and an undoing of the equality between paying and non-paying patients.

And then there are the people being appointed.  Politics is not just policy.  Personnel is policy.  That is, who implements the policy and helps decide strategy.  Worringly, Trump’s lovey daughter, her Wall Street husband, many rich friends of Trump, and others who do not share the concerns of Trump’s voters are calling the shots.

While his defense and security team is talented, Flynn’s exclusion is worrisome, because the strategic vision at work now remains the same impossible and expensive and doomed-to-failure notion of “unipolarity” and “stability” that has prevailed since the End of the Cold War.  And while much has been made about Bannon’s gruffness and falling status, his fall matters because he was the articulate and educated advocate for Trump’s often inarticulate, uneducated, and frustratingly voiceless white working class supporters.  Trump promised to “be their voice” in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention.  Bannon had at least something to do with translating that Trump into Trump’s campaign promises.  and Candidate Trump appears, at least partially, to be the “Real Trump,” stretching back to his criticism of free trade and defense of the virtues of the law enforcement and military communities since the 1980s.

It is hard to resist the establishment forever, particularly when one comes from that world in many important respects.  And it’s not fair to judge his presidency on the first 100 days, when some very good things like the Gorsuch and Sessions appointment have taken place, along with real steps taken against ridiculous “sanctuary cities” and the influx of refugees from terrorist lands.  But aside from a few items, it increasingly looks like it may be a standard Republican presidency, and the Border Wall, the American First foreign policy, and much else may simply get stuck in the tar pit that is Washington DC, where the Republican members of that establishment are in many respects the problem as much as the Democrats.

This change of focus will very likely delight some of the #NeverTrump crowd in the Republican Party, if they are honest enough to notice the change.  But it is not likely to be a winning formula politically, nor will it address the slow structural damage to the country:  its disunity, fiscal indiscipline, proletarianization, rejection of limited government principles of its founding documents and much else.  The nationalist Trump of the campaign and anyone who can do math should see that conservative politics and the American way of life are threatened by the demographic deluge.  The Republicans seem to think they can get cheap labor, as if these people don’t vote, have families, live a certain way, and sometimes mean us harm.  Democrats get it for obvious, self-interested reasons, because they’re creating a coalition of the have-nots, the new-comers, and the dependent.   Perhaps they went a bridge too far with “Black Lives Matter” and “amnesty,” but if the land that gave us Ronald Reagan can become an expensive, alien, and increasingly incapable bastion in 30 or 40 years of inflowing foreigners, there’s little reason to think it can’t happen to the country as a whole.

A horror show in Syria, as civilians fleeing a city under siege are massacred by “moderate” rebels.

As the author of this summary notes:

War is always an awful thing. This is precisely why something more than sympathy—insight, belief, and philosophy—must adjudicate between the competing images of atrocity that can be easily paraded before the world on CNN.

I’ll be writing more in depth shortly.  But if Trump changes his colors and goes for a neocon war in Syria it would be a tremendous disaster, a betrayal of the nationalist themes of his campaign, an injustice against the legitimate and most sane player in the Syrian civil war, and, like the war in Iraq, will be based on dubious intelligence that will prove false.  Ramz Paul’s latest video summarizes my basic thoughts on the matter.