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Monthly Archives: December 2019


In some areas, little has changed except for the convolution and conflation of history.MA
By Erin Blakemore. National Geographic, History Examiner

In A.D. 711, a group of North African Muslims led by the Berber general, Tariq ibn-Ziyad, captured the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal). Known as al-Andalus, the territory became a prosperous cultural and economic center where education and the arts and sciences flourished.
Over time, the strength of the Muslim state diminished, creating inroads for Christians who resented Moorish rule. For centuries, Christian groups challenged Muslim territorial dominance in al-Andalus and slowly expanded their territory. This culminated in 1492, when Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II and Isabella I won the Granada War and completed Spain’s conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. Eventually, the Moors were expelled from Spain.

By then, the idea of Moors had spread across Western Europe. “Moor” came to mean anyone who was Muslim or had dark skin; occasionally, Europeans would distinguish between “blackamoors” and “white Moors.”
One of the most famous mentions of Moors is in Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. Its titular character is a Moor who serves as a general in the Venetian army. (In Shakespeare’s time, the port city of Venice was ethnically diverse, and the Moors represented a growing interchange between Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.) Despite his military prowess, Othello is also portrayed as exotic, hypersexual, and untrustworthy—“a lascivious Moor” who secretly marries a white woman—reflecting historic stereotypes of black people.
More recently, the term has been coopted by the sovereign citizen movement in the United States. Members of Moorish sovereign citizen groups claim they are descended from Moors who predated white settlers in North America, and that they are part of a sovereign nation and not subject to U.S. laws. It’s proof of the ongoing allure of “Moor” as a seemingly legitimate ethnic designation—even though its meaning has never been clear.

In A.D. 711, a group of North African Muslims led by the Berber general, Tariq ibn-Ziyad, captured the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal). Known as al-Andalus, the territory became a prosperous cultural and economic center where education and the arts and sciences flourished.
Over time, the strength of the Muslim state diminished, creating inroads for Christians who resented Moorish rule. For centuries, Christian groups challenged Muslim territorial dominance in al-Andalus and slowly expanded their territory. This culminated in 1492, when Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II and Isabella I won the Granada War and completed Spain’s conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. Eventually, the Moors were expelled from Spain.

By then, the idea of Moors had spread across Western Europe. “Moor” came to mean anyone who was Muslim or had dark skin; occasionally, Europeans would distinguish between “blackamoors” and “white Moors.”
One of the most famous mentions of Moors is in Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. Its titular character is a Moor who serves as a general in the Venetian army. (In Shakespeare’s time, the port city of Venice was ethnically diverse, and the Moors represented a growing interchange between Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.) Despite his military prowess, Othello is also portrayed as exotic, hypersexual, and untrustworthy—“a lascivious Moor” who secretly marries a white woman—reflecting historic stereotypes of black people.
More recently, the term has been coopted by the sovereign citizen movement in the United States. Members of Moorish sovereign citizen groups claim they are descended from Moors who predated white settlers in North America, and that they are part of a sovereign nation and not subject to U.S. laws. It’s proof of the ongoing allure of “Moor” as a seemingly legitimate ethnic designation—even though its meaning has never been clear.

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David Lynch Washington Post
13 hrs ago
President Trump’s trade deal with Beijing leaves untouched the marriage of business and government known as China Inc. that American executives for nearly two decades have said tilted global markets against them. © Susan Walsh/AP President Trump shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, on June 29.
Trump insisted for months that he wanted to resolve all outstanding trade issues with China in a single, comprehensive accord that would refashion the Chinese state’s economic role. As late as September, he rejected talk of a partial agreement, saying instead that he wanted “the big deal.”
The two sides discussed industrial subsidies in the early rounds of negotiations over an agreement that exceeded 150 pages. But Chinese officials resisted making structural changes, and by the time officials settled this month on an 86-page partial accord, any commitments to reduce subsidies had been excised.
Chinese steel mills, solar panel manufacturers, electric battery developers, shipbuilders and oil producers all benefit from a vast web of government support. Officials in Beijing arm Chinese companies against their foreign rivals with discounted loans from state banks, cheap land, low-cost electric power, and cash infusions from officially approved investment funds.
“The Chinese effort is dogged, long-term and very well-funded,” said John Neuffer, chief executive of the Semiconductor Industry Association. “That’s why the subsidy issue is such a big one for us.”
Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, who lacks his predecessors’ enthusiasm for the free market, the state spigot has gushed aid. China now devotes more than 3 percent of its annual output to direct and indirect business subsidies — a share of the economy that is roughly equivalent to what the United States spends on defense, according to economist Nicholas Lardy of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a nonpartisan research group.
Some of that aid is similar to programs in the United States and other advanced nations, encouraging companies to retrain workers, use less energy or otherwise support government goals. But much of it is divorced from any consideration of profit and loss. So it fuels excess production of goods like steel, which spill into global markets, depressing prices and making it hard for American companies to compete.
Trump last year imposed tariffs on steel after the Commerce Department warned that the U.S. share of global production had fallen by nearly two-thirds since 2000, under pressure from heavily subsidized Chinese mills. At the same time, signs that China was lavishing state aid on efforts to supplant the United States as the global leader in advanced technology triggered Trump’s decision to launch his trade war with Beijing.

Subsidies are marbled throughout China’s state-led economy. For Chinese leaders, they are a principal tool of economic management, allowing them to steer credit, land, energy and other resources to favored state-owned enterprises as well as private companies that Beijing sees as strategic.
Whatever the cost, Beijing’s aid gives Chinese companies an important edge in other markets. Peter Navarro, the president’s principal White House trade adviser, calls state subsidies one of China’s “seven deadly sins,” which must be cured before the two countries can enjoy normal trade ties.
In a 215-page report last year, which kicked off Trump’s trade war with China, Robert E. Lighthizer, the president’s chief trade negotiator, identified government financial support as a key element in China’s plan to overtake U.S. technology leadership. China is “grossly subsidizing and taking over our markets,” he complained this summer before the Senate Finance Committee.
But this massive program of government assistance has proved a double-edged sword for China. State help enabled Chinese manufacturers to dominate markets for products such as auto parts, but it also has left the economy riddled with unprofitable “zombie” firms and suffering from pervasive inefficiency, economists said.
“These subsidies are being directed in ways that are really distorting. They are not being directed to dynamic firms,” said Loren Brandt, an economist at the University of Toronto.
Indeed, state-owned firms have become steadily less profitable as they have gotten bigger. Over the decade to 2017, the biggest state-owned enterprises nearly quadrupled their assets. But their returns fell to 2.6 percent from a peak of 6.7 percent in 2007.
Even as they underperform, state companies continue to enjoy easy access to loans from state banks. Meanwhile, private companies with brighter prospects often struggle to obtain credit.
“A lot of money’s getting wasted. There’s a massive misallocation of resources in underperforming state companies,” said Lardy, author of “The State Strikes Back: The End of Economic Reform in China?”
White House officials have acknowledged that some key issues remain unresolved. Lighthizer has said “a lot of hard things” have been left to future talks, which most analysts say will be arduous and unlikely to bear fruit before the November election.
Bargaining over industrial subsidies is expected to be particularly tough.
Though Trump launched the trade war to get China to change practices including its numerous subsidies, the commercial conflict has only convinced Xi to accelerate efforts to become self-sufficient — no matter the cost.
“The hard-liner view — they’re the ones who seem to have Xi Jinping’s ear or this is the way Xi thinks himself,” said Brandt. “But it’s clear that the more reformist constituency has lost out.”
The World Trade Organization prohibits subsidies that are directly linked to exports or that require the use of domestic goods. The U.S. has won at least three disputes over Chinese subsidies before the global trading body, including in 2011, when China agreed to halt a program of wind turbine subsidies after U.S. complaints.
But the WTO rules are poorly designed for a nonmarket economy of China’s size and importance to global trade. One problem is keeping track of the subsidies, which are often hidden or indirect.
Chinese makers of aluminum products appear to be driven by profits. But they benefit from government policies that provide cheap energy to the smelters that produce aluminum and from export limits that lead to a domestic glut, which keeps aluminum prices down too.
“They can be really effective selling into the U.S. or Europe,” said Chad Bown, another Peterson economist. “It’s just that all of their inputs are subsidized.”
After China labeled shipbuilding a strategic industry in 2006, the government-funded several new shipyards and an array of subsidies that saved the industry up to $4.5 billion over a six-year period, according to research by economist Myrto Kalouptsidi of Harvard University.
China quickly doubled its market share from roughly one-quarter of world ship orders to half, grabbing business from Japan, South Korea and Europe. Only after analyzing shipyards in several countries and ruling out alternative explanations was Kalouptsidi able to estimate the extent of Chinese subsidies.
“It is practically impossible to explain the rapid increase in China’s market share” without fingering subsidies, she wrote in a 2018 paper.
Under WTO rules, the U.S. can impose steep tariffs to counteract the effects of a trading partner’s subsidies if they injure American companies. The administration has stepped up its use of trade remedies to counter Chinese subsidies, hitting in the past two months imports of steel staples, diamond saw blades, hardwood lumber and ceramic tiles with defensive levies of as much as 356 percent.
About 10 percent of all Chinese imports — more than $50 billion worth of goods — now face countersubsidy or anti-dumping tariffs, according to Bown. That is apart from separate levies the president imposed on $360 billion in Chinese products over the past 18 months.
Using such tariffs offers little prospect of success, though, against China’s multipronged effort to promote its domestic semiconductor industry.
Chinese central and provincial governments have earmarked about $100 billion for equity investments, credit lines and various grants over the next five years so China will become by 2030 the global leader in an industry now dominated by U.S. firms.
Private equity funds backed by the state are funneling cash into China’s semiconductor industry, helping build and outfit dozens of new fabrication plants. There are now more than 1,600 of these “government-guided funds,” commanding a total of $570 billion, according to Zero2IPO Research Center, a Beijing-based consultancy.
Unlike traditional private equity investors in the U.S., these Chinese funds are willing to accept subpar returns to meet government goals.
Two Chinese companies — SMIC and Tsinghua Unigroup — derive more than 30 percent of their annual revenue from government payments. Yet they offer their government investors below-market returns, according to a new study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris.
Such investments are “probably among the hardest forms of support to identify and quantify,” the OECD concluded.
Despite years of free spending, Chinese semiconductor manufacturers remain far behind the U.S. state-of-the-art. Even failed industrial policy, however, can distort global trade flows and hurt non-Chinese companies.
While the U.S. industry retains a solid lead over aspiring Chinese rivals, the semiconductor industry’s Neuffer says the administration needs a broader response. Along with combating Chinese trade practices, the U.S. should be emphasizing workforce development, competition policy and opening other markets overseas.
“We need an affirmative agenda, too,” he said.
david.lynch@washpost.com

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December 20, 201911:32 AM ET
Heard on All Things Considered

Scott Horsley
Two years ago Friday, Republicans in Congress passed a sweeping tax cut. It was supposed to be a gift-wrapped present to taxpayers and the economy. But in hindsight, it looks more like a costly lump of coal.
Passed on a party-line vote, the tax cut is the signature legislative accomplishment of President Trump’s first term. He had campaigned hard for the measure, promising it would boost paychecks for working people.
“Our focus is on helping the folks who work in the mailrooms and the machine shops of America,” he told supporters in the fall of 2017. “The plumbers, the carpenters, the cops, the teachers, the truck drivers, the pipe-fitters, the people that like me best.”

As Growth Slows, The Economy Is Falling Short Of Trump’s Target
In fact, more than 60% of the tax savings went to people in the top 20% of the income ladder, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The measure also slashed the corporate tax rate by 40%.
“It will be rocket fuel for our economy,” Trump promised.
Boosters of the tax cut insisted the economy would grow so fast, it would more than make up for the revenue lost to lower rates.
“The tax plan will pay for itself with economic growth,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
It hasn’t worked out that way.
“It was unbelievable at the time, and it’s proven to be absolutely untrue,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “The tax cuts were never going to — and have not — come anywhere close to paying for themselves.”
Corporate tax revenues fell 31% in the first year after the cut was passed. Overall tax revenues have declined as a share of the economy in each of the two years since the tax cut took effect.
“Not surprising, if you cut taxes, you get less in revenues,” MacGuineas said. “And what we’ve been doing at the same time is we’ve been increasing spending. And no surprise, our deficit has exploded.”
The federal deficit this year was $984 billion — an extraordinary figure at a time when the country is not mired in recession or widespread war.
The tax cut also failed to produce a permanent boost in economic growth, despite promises from Republican supporters.
“After eight straight years of slow growth and underperformance, America is ready to take off,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said when the tax cut passed two years ago.
In fact, the economy grew 2.9% last year — exactly the same as in 2015.
The tax cut, along with increased government spending, did give a short-term lift to the economy and businesses temporarily boosted investment. But the rocket fuel burned off quickly. Business investment declined in the last two quarters

“There was an acceleration in terms of momentum for business investment, but it was rather short-lived,” said Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics. “A year further down the road, we’re really not seeing much of any leftover of this fiscal stimulus package.”
Hampered in part by the president’s trade war, the economy is projected to grow only about 2% this coming year. That’s below the administration’s target of 3% and slightly below the average growth rate since 2010.
To be sure, the stock market is booming, and unemployment is near record lows. But while most Americans give the economy high marks, that doesn’t extend to the tax cut. A Gallup Poll last tax season found only about 40% of Americans approved of the cut while 49% disapproved.
Even though experts say most workers did get a bump in their take-home pay, it was largely invisible to many taxpayers. Only about 14% of those surveyed by Gallup believe their taxes went down. (That figure includes 22% of Republicans, 12% of Democrats and 10% of independents.)
“For millions of middle-class Americans, it is not a very happy anniversary,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said while wealthy Americans are celebrating their tax savings from the past two years, working people feel like an afterthought.
Perhaps it’s an acknowledgement of that sentiment that the president is now talking about another round of tax cuts, after the 2020 election. “We’re going to be doing a major middle-income tax cut, if we take back the House,” Trump promised in November.
The president made similar promises before last year’s midterm election. But the follow-up to his 2017 tax cut never materialized.

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© Leah Millis / Reuters Donald Trump on July 26, 2019, one day after his now-infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Donald Trump sitting in front of a window: Donald Trump on July 26, 2019, one day after his now-infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

 

David Frum 15 hrs ago

 
Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.
Amid a two-day binge of post-Christmas rage-tweeting, President Donald Trump retweeted the name of the CIA employee widely presumed to be the whistle-blower in the Ukraine scandal. On Thursday night, December 26, Trump retweeted his campaign account, which had tweeted a link to a Washington Examiner article that printed the name in the headline. Then, in the early hours of Friday morning, December 27, Trump retweeted a supporter who named the presumed whistle-blower in the text of the tweet.

This is a step the president has been building toward for some time. The name of the presumed whistle-blower has been circulating among Trump supporters for months. Trump surrogates—including the president’s elder son—have posted the name on social media and discussed it on television. Yet actually crossing the line to post the name on the president’s own account? Until this week, Trump hesitated. That red line has now been crossed.
Lawyers debate whether the naming of the federal whistle-blower is in itself illegal. Federal law forbids inspectors general to disclose the names of whistle-blowers, but the law isn’t explicit about disclosure by anybody else in government.
What the law does forbid is retaliation against a whistle-blower. And a coordinated campaign of vilification by the president’s allies—and the president himself—surely amounts to “retaliation” in any reasonable understanding of the term.
While the presumed whistle-blower reportedly remains employed by the government, he is also reportedly subject to regular death threats, including at least implicit threat by Trump himself. Trump was recorded in September telling U.S. diplomats in New York: “Basically, that person never saw the report, never saw the call, he never saw the call—heard something and decided that he or she, or whoever the hell they saw—they’re almost a spy. I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistle-blower the information? Because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”
Trump’s tweeting in the past two days was so frenzied and the sources quoted were so bizarre—including at least four accounts devoted to the Pizzagate-adjacent conspiracy theory QAnon, as well as one that describes former President Barack Obama as “Satan’s Muslim scum”—as to renew doubts about the president’s mental stability. But Trump’s long reticence about outright naming the presumed whistle-blower suggests that he remained sufficiently tethered to reality to hear and heed a lawyer’s advice. He disregarded that advice in full awareness that he was disregarding it. The usual excuse for Trump’s online abusiveness—he’s counterpunching—amounts in this case not to a defense but to an indictment: Counterpunching literally means retaliating, and retaliation is what is forbidden by federal law.
The presumed whistle-blower’s personal remedy for the president’s misconduct is a private lawsuit for monetary damages against the federal government. It’s hard to see how such a lawsuit would do anybody any good. The presumed whistle-blower still draws a salary, and may not have suffered any material costs at all. The presumed whistle-blower’s ultimate compensation for this ordeal should be a future place of honor in the service of the country.
In the meantime, though, the country is left once again with the problem of a president who refuses to obey the law. Trump is organizing from the White House a conspiracy to revenge himself on the person who first alerted the country that Trump was extorting Ukraine to help his reelection: more lawbreaking to punish the revelation of past lawbreaking. Impeaching a president whose party holds a majority in the Senate obviously presents many grave practical difficulties. But Trump’s post-Christmas mania confirms House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s prediction that Trump would impeach himself.
Donald Trump will not be bound by any rule, even after he has been caught. He is unrepentant and determined to break the rules again—in part by punishing those who try to enforce them. He is a president with the mind of a gangster, and as long as he is in office, he will head a gangster White House.

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Politics has become a dirtier business than any previous time. As a free country, we have in the past looked upon other countries with incredulity, scorn, and derision regarding the cheating in their governments. Fast forward to now, we have apparently fallen into the same abyss after years of being an example {of sorts) of what a good government should look like. The following cartoon is just an example of where we are now:

Mike Luckovich Comic Strip for December 29, 2019

We have always been a bit suspicious of government, this is not a condemnation but it generates a measure of doubt that should lead to closer looks at laws and proposals that affect us as individuals and the country as a whole. This administration if nothing else has opened the doors to the real intent of the extremes on the right and left while the middle muddles

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George T. Conway III, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and Rick Wilson
23 hrs ago

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Patriotism and the survival of our nation in the face of the crimes, corruption and corrosive nature of Donald Trump are a higher calling than mere politics. As Americans, we must stem the damage he and his followers are doing to the rule of law, the Constitution and the American character.
That’s why we are announcing the Lincoln Project, an effort to highlight our country’s story and values, and its people’s sacrifices and obligations. This effort transcends partisanship and is dedicated to nothing less than preservation of the principles that so many have fought for, on battlefields far from home and within their own communities.
This effort asks all Americans of all places, creeds and ways of life to join in the seminal task of our generation: restoring to this nation leadership and governance that respects the rule of law, recognizes the dignity of all people and defends the Constitution and American values at home and abroad.
Over these next 11 months, our efforts will be dedicated to defeating President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box and to elect those patriots who will hold the line. We do not undertake this task lightly, nor from ideological preference. We have been, and remain, broadly conservative (or classically liberal) in our politics and outlooks. Our many policy differences with national Democrats remain, but our shared fidelity to the Constitution dictates a common effort.
The 2020 general election, by every indication, will be about persuasion, with turnout expected to be at record highs. Our efforts are aimed at persuading enough disaffected conservatives, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in swing states and districts to help ensure a victory in the Electoral College, and congressional majorities that don’t enable or abet Mr. Trump’s violations of the Constitution, even if that means Democratic control of the Senate and an expanded Democratic majority in the House.

The American presidency transcends the individuals who occupy the Oval Office. Their personality becomes part of our national character. Their actions become our actions, for which we all share responsibility. Their willingness to act in accordance with the law and our tradition dictate how current and future leaders will act. Their commitment to order, civility and decency are reflected in American society.
Mr. Trump fails to meet the bar for this commitment. He has neither the moral compass nor the temperament to serve. His vision is limited to what immediately faces him — the problems and risks he chronically brings upon himself and for which others, from countless contractors and companies to the American people, ultimately bear the heaviest burden.
But this president’s actions are possible only with the craven acquiescence of congressional Republicans. They have done no less than abdicate their Article I responsibilities.
Indeed, national Republicans have done far worse than simply march along to Mr. Trump’s beat. Their defense of him is imbued with an ugliness, a meanness and a willingness to attack and slander those who have shed blood for our country, who have dedicated their lives and careers to its defense and its security, and whose job is to preserve the nation’s status as a beacon of hope.
Congressional Republicans have embraced and copied Mr. Trump’s cruelty and defended and even adopted his corruption. Mr. Trump and his enablers have abandoned conservatism and longstanding Republican principles and replaced it with Trumpism, an empty faith led by a bogus prophet. In a recent survey, a majority of Republican voters reported that they consider Mr. Trump a better president than Lincoln.
Mr. Trump and his fellow travelers daily undermine the proposition we as a people have a responsibility and an obligation to continually bend the arc of history toward justice. They mock our belief in America as something more meaningful than lines on a map.
Our peril far outstrips any past differences: It has arrived at our collective doorstep, and we believe there is no other choice. We sincerely hope, but are not optimistic, that some of those Republicans charged with sitting as jurors in a likely Senate impeachment trial will do likewise.
American men and women stand ready around the globe to defend us and our way of life. We must do right by them and ensure that the country for which they daily don their uniform deserves their protection and their sacrifice.
We are reminded of Dan Sickles, an incompetent 19th-century New York politician. On July 2, 1863, his blundering nearly ended the United States.
(Sickles’s greatest previous achievement had been fatally shooting his wife’s lover across the street from the White House and getting himself elected to Congress. Even his most fervent admirers could not have imagined that one day, far in the future, another incompetent New York politician, a president, would lay claim to that legacy by saying he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.)
On that day in Pennsylvania, Sickles was a major general commanding the Union Army’s III Corps at the Battle of Gettysburg, and his incompetence wrought chaos and danger. The Confederate Army took advantage, and turned the Union line. Had the rebel soldiers broken through, the continent might have been divided: free and slave, democratic and authoritarian.
Another Union general, Winfield Scott Hancock, had only minutes to reinforce the line. America, the nation, the ideal, hung in the balance. Amid the fury of battle, he found the First Minnesota Volunteers.
They charged, and many of them fell, suffering a staggeringly high casualty rate. They held the line. They saved the Union. Four months later, Lincoln stood on that field of slaughter and said, “It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”
We look to Lincoln as our guide and inspiration. He understood the necessity of not just saving the Union, but also of knitting the nation back together spiritually as well as politically. But those wounds can be bound up only once the threat has been defeated. So, too, will our country have to knit itself back together after the scourge of Trumpism has been overcome.
George T. Conway III is an attorney in New York. Steve Schmidt is a Republican political strategist who worked for President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. John Weaver is a Republican strategist who worked for President George H.W. Bush, Senator John McCain and Gov. John Kasich. Rick Wilson is a Republican media consultant and author of “Everything Trump Touches Dies” and the forthcoming “Running Against the Devil: A Plot to Save America From Trump and Democrats From Themselves.”
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David Ignatius 13 hrs ago
Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.
It’s cheering this Christmas week to repeat the bromide, “love thy neighbor.” But the unfortunate truth about America these days is that many of us seem to hate our neighbors. We don’t understand how other people can oppose the values we cherish most. Their behavior is infuriating and, it often seems, unforgivable.

How do we escape this bitter impasse? I wrote many columns this year about the political divide that has deepened during Donald Trump’s presidency and the dark days that may lie ahead. We’ll take a big step, forward or back, in the 2020 presidential election, now less than a year away. But whoever wins, a large chunk of the country is likely to keep holding onto its rage. How do we break that? Strategists sometimes advise that if you can’t solve a problem on its existing template, then enlarge it. So, in the spirit of the holiday season, perhaps readers will think with me about how to expand the discussion of our broken politics to include what we know from our personal and religious lives.
For Christians, the center of faith is the set of admonitions that Jesus preached in his Sermon on the Mount. The language may be familiar, but the transcendent message remains startling every time we read it:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. … You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
That can’t be right, we think. Can Jesus really be telling us to love people who are doing us harm? But that’s what it says.
We know what loving our enemies feels like in our personal lives. Sometimes we’ll be locked in a feud with a friend or a relative — deeply wounded by a wrong that we feel has been done to us. If the feud continues, we’ll eventually back ourselves into a corner, angry and embittered. We learn that in such situations, the only escape is to “love” our persecutor — not because our indignation was wrong, but because it doesn’t get us anywhere.
If we’re lucky, we escape this blockage and reset the terms, not conceding our old grievances but putting them aside. What married couple hasn’t experienced a version of this?
Okay, let’s agree that transcendence is possible in our personal lives. But does it work in politics, when each side’s narrative becomes inflamed and reinforced by partisan politicians and media commentators? And is reconciliation possible — or even desirable — when fundamental matters of principle seem to be at stake?
More and more, I hear people expressing doubt about compromise and reconciliation in the age of Trump. That’s part of what makes his politics so potent and dangerous — it’s not the art of the deal, it turns out, but a fight to the death.
For these no-compromise folks, and there are plenty on both left and right, it’s as if we are already in a civil war. America is locked in a battle between justice and injustice that can be resolved only when the good guys win. Reconciliation comes after the bad guys have been crushed.
Certainly, an uncompromising spirit helped carry the United States through its noblest wars. President Franklin D. Roosevelt demanded “unconditional surrender” from Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. The Allies won a total victory in 1945 that allowed the winners to create an open, generous, wealth-creating global system whose remnants sustain us to this day.
Abraham Lincoln, our greatest president, also hardened his heart to triumph against evil, even at horrific cost. As he said in his second inaugural address in 1865, if “every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’ ”
Thankfully, even amid our current difficulties, America doesn’t feel to me like a country headed toward a second civil war. Turn off the television, go to a ballgame, listen to some music, and the din from Washington fades.
This season, I’d still bet that a version of “love thy neighbor” is a political winner. As angry as people are, few like the state of our politics, and most Americans want a way out.

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Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe 11 hrs ago, Washington Post

The new Russia adviser at the White House — the third in just six months — has no meaningful background on the subject. The only expert on Ukraine has never spoken with President Trump, only been mocked by him publicly.

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv will soon be without its highest-ranking diplomat for the second time in a year, as another ambassador departs after being undermined by the U.S. president and his personal attorney.
The CIA analyst who triggered the impeachment inquiry continues to work on issues relating to Russia and Ukraine, but when threats against him spike — often seemingly spurred by presidential tweets — he is driven to and from work by armed security officers.

Having been impeached by the House, Trump faces trial in the Senate on charges that he abused the power of his office and sought to obstruct Congress. But the jarring developments over the past three months have also exposed the extent to which the national security establishment and the values that have traditionally guided American foreign policy are facing an extraordinary trial of their own under Trump’s presidency.
An entire roster of public servants has been disparaged, bullied and in some cases banished for standing in Trump’s path as he sought to pressure Ukraine for political favors, or for testifying about his conduct afterward.
Many who came forward were convinced that Trump’s actions were a violation of American principles, if not the law, and they clung to a misplaced faith that matters of national security would transcend partisan politics. Instead, the impeachment saga has hardened political divisions and cast doubt on the United States’ commitment to ideals it has long professed. This story is based on interviews with more than 20 current and former officials, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their role in the administration or the impeachment inquiry.
Trump was the catalyst of his own impeachment, withholding military aid and a White House meeting from the leader of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, whom he was pressuring to pursue investigations designed to politically wound former vice president Joe Biden.
But the fallout of the impeachment battle extends far beyond Trump’s political survival in a Senate trial. Tensions, exposed by impeachment, have fed Trump’s belief that he is surrounded by disloyal subordinates and have fueled animosity among congressional Republicans toward the supposed “deep state.” Today, the idea that a cadre of nonpartisan civil servants can loyally serve presidents of either party in pursuit of shared national interests — a bedrock principle of the country’s approach to foreign policy since World War II — is under attack.
Some of the responsibility for the mounting collateral damage falls on career officials and political appointees who took jobs in the administration despite deep objections to the president’s view.
These officials hoped they could steer the unconventional president, who has an affinity for autocrats and an aversion to traditional allies, toward more-conventional views and policies.
Others came to see themselves as doing damage control, taking advantage of Trump’s short attention span to advance their preferred objectives and counter what they regarded as his destructive impulses.
Their actions have fed the view among some Republicans that impeachment is not just an isolated fight about Trump’s actions toward Ukraine but also is an extension of a broader, unfinished conflict.
“We’re fighting for the country here,” said Stephen K. Bannon, who called for the “deconstruction of the administrative state” while advising Trump in the early months of his presidency. “This all started in the transition,” Bannon said in an interview, adding that the attacks on those who “actively worked against [Trump’s] policies on Ukraine” or defied his wishes on Ukraine should serve as “a warning that if you go against the president, there is going to be a price to be paid.”
Enemies list
The impeachment-related damage is extensive.
The acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr., returned to Kyiv after his Nov. 14 testimony only to watch Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, arrive weeks later to resume his quest for dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Giuliani’s sojourn while filming a documentary for a right-wing television network made clear to officials in Ukraine that Taylor and the U.S. Embassy had no standing with the U.S. president.
Taylor has since announced that he will step down by Jan. 2, clearing out of the Ukrainian capital on an accelerated schedule in part to spare Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — scheduled to visit Kyiv next month — from having to appear in pictures alongside a diplomat Trump branded as disloyal.
The ambassador had taken the job only after Pompeo promised him that U.S. policy would remain firmly grounded in fighting Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, an assurance that now seems uncertain at best.
Veterans of the Foreign Service are bewildered. “These attacks — I’ve not seen anything like this since I joined the Foreign Service,” said John Heffern, a former senior State Department official who entered the department when Ronald Reagan was president. “Our work is promoting international universal values — freedom of the press and rule of law. Considering what’s happened in the United States, it undermines our ability to project that message to our foreign counterparts.”
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top adviser on Ukraine at the National Security Council, has continued to work at the White House since testifying that he was so disturbed by Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky that he reported his concerns to White House lawyers.
But Vindman — who was born in Ukraine, moved to the United States with his family at age 3 and earned a Purple Heart in the war in Iraq — has been taunted by Trump, cast as disloyal by the president’s allies and falsely accused of plotting with the whistleblower to undermine the president.
“Vindictive Vindman is the ‘whistleblower’s’ handler,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said in a Nov. 22 tweet. The baseless charge was a sign of how Trump has influenced his party’s tactics and illustrated the intense pressure on Republicans to back the president.
In 2017, Blackburn chastised Trump for his fixation on score-settling and petty insults, writing on Facebook that “civility in all our interactions — both personal and digital — is not only proper but fundamental to a respectful and prosperous society.”
Fiona Hill, the former top Russia adviser at the White House, has endured obscene phone calls to her home phone, according to people familiar with the matter, and vicious assaults from far-right media. Alex Jones, the conspiracy monger who operates the Infowars website, devoted much of his Nov. 22 broadcast to smears against Hill. “I want her a** indicted,” Jones said. “I want her indicted for perjury. Today. Indict that w****.”
For Hill, the attacks were a continuation of an astonishing level of hostility she witnessed during the two years she served in the White House. Trump loyalists drafted internal “enemies” lists, co-workers were purged, and NSC security teams logged hundreds of external threats against Hill and other officials, all fueled by a steady stream of far-right smears.
Hill, a former U.S. intelligence official and co-author of a biography of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, was little known outside foreign policy circles when she joined the White House. Within weeks of joining the administration, she faced a wave of internal and external efforts to discredit or neutralize her.
A former Republican congressman, Connie Mack IV of Florida, approached aides of Vice President Pence’s, warning that Hill was tainted by her prior work for an organization funded by George Soros. A billionaire financier and Holocaust survivor, Soros has used his fortune to fight the spread of authoritarianism and bigotry. He has also become associated with a “globalist” agenda opposed by many on the right, and his name is frequently invoked in anti-Semitic slurs.
At the time, Mack was working as a paid lobbyist for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, an autocratic leader seeking to shut down a Soros-funded international university in Hungary. Orban was concerned that Hill might use her position at the White House to object.
In an interview, Mack insisted that he was merely trying to call officials’ attention to what he believed was a conflict of interest for Hill, not instigate her removal or incite right-wing attacks. But the attacks came anyway.
“My entire first year of my tenure at the National Security Council was filled with hateful calls, conspiracy theories, which has started again” amid impeachment, she testified in October. For months, Hill arrived at work nearly each day to find venomous messages left on her work phone by a caller from Florida. The same woman called Hill at home several times, frightening her young daughter, according to two people familiar with the matter.
For Hill, ever the Russia analyst, the ruthless nature of the harassment harked back to the Bolshevik purges of revolutionary Russia. Bannon has all but touted this connection, comparing his destructive agenda to that of Vladi­mir Lenin’s.
In 2017, Bannon and his allies compiled a list of about 50 people they wanted exiled from the National Security Council. Most of their targets drew suspicion because they had worked as civil servants in the Obama White House. Bannon’s team also scoured the targets’ social media profiles for signs of disloyalty to the Trump administration.
Officials involved in the effort said they were driven by a missionary zeal to rid the administration of any of the foreign policy elite they blamed for miring the country in costly wars and locking it into burdensome alliances that undermined Trump’s “America First” agenda.
Nothing wrong
Key players in those 2017 purges, and several of their targets, have resurfaced in the impeachment fight.
Among the first to confront Hill when she joined the White House that year was Derek Harvey, who went to the NSC after working for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on the House Intelligence Committee. On one of Hill’s first days on the job, Harvey told her he could not understand why Trump had allowed her into the fold, according to officials who witnessed the exchange.
Harvey, who was active in generating the enemies list, returned to Nunes’s staff after being ousted by then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster in July 2017. When Hill testified behind closed doors before the committee, Harvey could be seen passing notes to members, officials said. He also approached Hill at one point, telling her that the “trolls are out again.” The gesture, intended to communicate sympathy, ignored the fact that Hill and others viewed him as contributing to the poisonous climate.
Harvey declined to comment for this story.
Bannon said the whistleblower was at the top of the list he and his allies created in 2017. Former White House officials said it also included a State Department official now serving as a top aide to Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Another early target of Trump loyalists was Stephanie Holmes, a career State Department employee assigned to the NSC who was falsely accused of leaking details of Trump’s Oval Office conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Holmes came under such intense internal pressure that she hired a lawyer, former colleagues said. She subsequently left her NSC job to take a post that seemingly should have shielded her from the bloodletting, moving with her husband, David, also a diplomat, to the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.
It was only because the Holmeses were in Kyiv that David Holmes was in position to witness Trump’s phone call with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondlandat an outdoor cafe. Holmes testified last month that he could overhear Trump asking about the investigations he wanted Ukraine to conduct into the Bidens, and that Sondland confided to Holmes afterward that the president did not “give a s**t” about Ukraine.
Trump has intentionally fostered internal friction, sowing tension among subordinates as a management tactic, current and former White House officials said. But he also inadvertently hired advisers who are repelled by his crude behavior and isolationist instincts.
McMaster, former chief of staff John F. Kelly, former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and others all fought Trump on major aspects of his foreign policy — his disdain for the NATO alliance, his desire on a moment’s notice to pull U.S. troops out of war zones, and his aversion to imposing sanctions on Russia. They, in turn, often hired subordinates who were similarly scornful of Trump’s positions.
The impeachment hearings exposed how these officials coped with Trump, and at times sought to counter his agenda, if only in the context of Ukraine.
The most senior officials, such as Pompeo, and John Bolton when he was national security adviser, often relied on underlings to sound alarms or subvert Trump’s efforts to pressure Zelensky, without putting their own standing with the president at risk. Taylor, Hill and Vindman repeatedly raised objections to aspects of the shadow policy they perceived but had no meaningful power to stop it. Former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker walked a treacherous tightrope,working to secure a commitment from Ukraine to pursue the investigations to clear impediments to what he regarded as the real policy: bolstering Ukraine in its war with Russian-backed separatists.
He hid his alarm at Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories about the 2016 election and the president’s loathing for the Ukrainians. Volker saw himself as facing a choice: He could accept Trump’s view of Ukraine or try to fix it.
“I tried to fix it,” he testified. Volker’s career was derailed as a result. He resigned from his diplomatic post after his role in the Ukraine episode was exposed. He was also forced to step down as executive director of the McCain Institute, a think tank whose stated mission is to advance “character-driven leadership.”
Career diplomats and civil servants routinely suppress private views to execute policies set by presidents. The impeachment hearings forced a parade of witnesses to reveal their feelings about Trump on a stage with an international audience.
“People were forced to testify about things they believe . . . how they felt about what the president was doing,” one of the impeachment witnesses said in an interview. The stark airing of these differences “caused the president to think they are biased against him,” the official said.
Trump responded by railing against witnesses he dismissed as “Never Trumpers,” a reference to the hundreds of national security experts who came out publicly against Trump in 2016.
In reality, none of those who testified had ever publicly opposed Trump, and many had made conscious decisions — despite misgivings — to return to government to work for him.
Some did so at considerable personal or professional cost. Hill was cautioned by friends and colleagues in the close-knit foreign policy community to reject the NSC job. One long-standing peer has refused to speak with her since learning she had gone to work for Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.
Three years into Trump’s presidency, the list of perceived enemies continues to expand, and now is composed of officials whom Trump or his own subordinates hired. The hostility they face comes not only from Trump loyalists — whether inside the administration or launching attacks from right-wing media sites — but also from a substantial swath of the Republican Party.
For decades, the GOP cast itself as the champion of the FBI, CIA, Pentagon and other national security institutions. But over the past three years, Republicans have repeatedly turned on those agencies when necessary to protect Trump’s presidency.
In their final report on the impeachment hearings, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee focused on “unelected bureaucrats” as the true villains of the impeachment scandal. These officials made “accusations and assumptions” about the president, were “discomforted at Trump’s call” with Zelensky, and they “chafed at the president’s outside the beltway approach to diplomacy.”
Ultimately, they were to blame.
In the recent interview, Bannon marveled at how rapidly GOP lawmakers have lined up behind Trump against impeachment. Early in the scandal, Bannon said, it would have been difficult to find more than a few GOP members willing to backs trump’s assertion that his call with Zelensky was “perfect.”
Though the core facts have never been in question, Bannon said that “because of the information put forth by the president and his advocates,” it was impossible to find a GOP member prepared to dispute Trump’s depiction.
“Today, look at House Judiciary, a hundred percent say it is a perfect call,” Bannon said. “A hundred percent say there’s nothing wrong.”
greg.miller@washpost.com
greg.jaffe@washpost.com

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The current politics of America seems to hinge on the whims and desires of a few long-serving Congressional members.these are the people in whom we put our trust at their first foray into politics. We have kept these folks in office based on the initial trust we bestowed upon them. That trust has been violated more times than we know and horribly apparent now with the advent of  TOTUS (aka self-pitying cheater and shameless liar).  The impeachment procedures while disruptive could be handled better if we truly had representatives we could trust. It seems that the only reason for supporting an incompetent leader is the cover provided by his miscreant behavior and boisterous outbursts. The semi-legal (in practical terms) appointing of judges who are clearly conservative to the point of harm to us (the voters) is what we are gaining(?) from this administration and the neer do well Congress that supports him. The current TITULAR head of our country has administrated on twitter and in rallies with no basis in fact on many if not all of his claims and statements. Our European allies have all taken note of his actions and statements while attempting to continue working with the U.S. in the cohesive way they have for 70 plus years. Our long-time foes are silently laughing at his ineptitude and at the same time continuing their nefarious ways again using TOTUS as a cover by sometimes falsely praising or provoking him. There is no additional information required. but surely more will be forthcoming.

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Jeff Flake 12 hrs ago – The Washington Post

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.
Jeff Flake, a Republican, represented Arizona in the U.S. Senate from 2013 to 2019. He is a resident fellow at Harvard University and a contributor to CBS News.
To my former Senate Republican colleagues,
I don’t envy you.
It might not be fair, but none of the successes, achievements and triumphs you’ve had in public office — whatever bills you’ve passed, hearings you’ve chaired, constituents you have had the privilege of helping — will matter more than your actions in the coming months.
President Trump is on trial. But in a very real sense, so are you. And so is the political party to which we belong.
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As we approach the time when you do your constitutional duty and weigh the evidence arrayed against the president, I urge you to remember who we are when we are at our best. And I ask you to remember yourself at your most idealistic.
We are conservatives. The political impulses that compelled us all to enter public life were defined by sturdy pillars anchored deep in the American story. Chief among these is a realistic view of power and of human nature, and a corresponding and healthy mistrust of concentrated and impervious executive power. Mindful of the base human instincts that we all possess, the founders of our constitutional system designed its very architecture to curb excesses of power.
Those curbs are especially important when the power is wielded by a president who denies reality itself and calls his behavior not what it is, but “perfect.”

Personally, I have never met anyone whose behavior can be described as perfect, but so often has the president repeated this obvious untruth that it has become a form of dogma in our party. And sure enough, as dogma demands, there are members of our party denying objective reality by repeating the line that “the president did nothing wrong.” My colleagues, the danger of an untruthful president is compounded when an equal branch follows that president off the cliff, into the abyss of unreality and untruth.
Call it the founders’ blind spot: They simply could not have envisioned the Article I branch abetting and enabling such dangerous behavior in the Article II branch. And when we are complicit, we cede our constitutional responsibilities, we forever redefine the relationship between Congress and the White House, and we set the most dangerous of precedents.
My simple test for all of us: What if President Barack Obama had engaged in precisely the same behavior? I know the answer to that question with certainty, and so do you. You would have understood with striking clarity the threat it posed, and you would have known exactly what to do.
Regarding the articles of impeachment, you could reasonably conclude that the president’s actions warrant his removal. You might also determine that the president’s actions do not rise to the constitutional standard required for removal. There is no small amount of moral hazard with each option, but both positions can be defended.
But what is indefensible is echoing House Republicans who say that the president has not done anything wrong. He has.
The willingness of House Republicans to bend to the president’s will by attempting to shift blame with the promotion of bizarre and debunked conspiracy theories has been an appalling spectacle. It will have long-term ramifications for the country and the party, to say nothing of individual reputations.
Nearly all of you condemned the president’s behavior during the 2016 campaign. Nearly all of you refused to campaign with him. You knew then that doing so would be wrong — would be a stain on your reputation and the standing of the Republican Party, and would do lasting damage to the conservative cause.
Ask yourself today: Has the president changed his behavior? Has he grown in office? Has the mantle of the presidency altered his conduct? The answer is obvious. In fact, if the president’s political rally in Michigan on Wednesday is any measure, his language has only become more vulgar, his performance cruder, his behavior more boorish and unstable.
Next, ask yourself: If the president’s conduct hasn’t changed, has mine? Before President Trump came on the scene, would I have stood at a rally and cheered while supporters shouted “lock her up” or “send them back”? Would I have laughed along while the president demeaned and ridiculed my colleagues? Would I have ever thought to warm up the crowd for the president by saying of the House speaker: “It must suck to be that dumb”?
As I said above, I don’t envy you. You’re on a big stage now. Please don’t accept an alternate reality that would have us believe in things that obviously are not true, in the service of executive behavior that we never would have encouraged and a theory of executive power that we have always found abhorrent.
If there ever was a time to put country over party, it is now. And by putting country over party, you might just save the Grand Old Party before it’s too late.
Jeff Flake: Fellow Republicans, there’s still time to save your souls

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