Guest Post: Trump’s Presidency – a disaster in the making?

This is another guest post by Brian Goldfarb.

I have to add a caveat before I post Brian’s article. There is a lot here with which I disagree, but first of all I don’t like my blog to be just an echo chamber. It is always useful to hear other opinions, especially when they are balanced and come from a position of goodwill and of wishing the best for Israel and the world. Secondly, as Trump’s presidency progresses and his affairs become ever more tangled, we need to take a step back and reconsider the implications.

I have never been a mad keen fan of Trump, he was simply better than the alternatives.This past week, with State Department officials declaring that the Kotel is “not in your territory” and therefore Binyamin Netanyahu is not welcome to join Trump in prayer at the holy site, and then some furious back-pedalling from Trump, along with Trump’s sudden affection for Palestinian President-for-life Mahmoud Abbas, has brought about a lot of second thoughts and even soul-searching for very many Israelis who were jubilating at Trump’s election a mere few months ago.

The Kotel is definitely in Israeli territory!

We can add to this mix the latest scandals involving Trump’s leaking security secrets (possibly originating in Israel) to the Russians, and speculation as to whether the Russians influenced the American elections, and we are left confused whether all this is simply “fake news” intended to bring him down? Or are they real dangers, especially to Israel?

Read Brian’s post and decide for yourselves.

I started off with few hopes for a Trump Presidency and these have rapidly been eroded. As I said to my wife, Ros, the other day, “I expected this, but not so soon”: that is, the crumbling of the the credibility of the Trump Administration.

Let me explain. Unlike a friend of mine (a member of the petit bourgeoisie – and I mean no insult by that term: he ran a small chain of pharmacies very successfully and has ensured that he and his wife have a very comfortable retirement as a result) who texted me (we were in New York at the time of the election in November, 2016) when Trump was elected that “at last we have a businessman as President”, I was less than enthusiastic. I replied that even if he had been a successful businessman, which was open to doubt, there was no reason to expect this to translate into becoming a successful politician. After all, Obama, a relative failure from the liberal point of view (who now looks like an outstanding success in comparison) had had a relative short career as a politician before becoming President.

After a short exchange across the Pond, my friend conceded defeat (after a fashion), texting me that “don’t worry, Brian, even [my wife] thinks I’m mad!”

The best I expected from “The Donald” was that he would reduce US payments to UNESCO, the UNHRC and even the main body. He might even prove a true(r) friend to Israel than his immediate predecessor. With luck, I thought, he might lose control of Congress in November 2018, and thus the harm he could do would be further reduced.

In fact, the collapse came even sooner than I would have expected. The true “Donald” was revealed when he asserted that his inauguration ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial was “the biggest ever”, while photographs revealed that it failed to match Obama’s first inaugural by a country mile. The narcissistic need to be the best ever, whatever the evidence to the contrary, immediately raises worries, to be polite about it. In fact, H.L. Mencken, the great American essayist, got Trump’s measure almost a century ago, without ever meeting him, when he wrote (in the Baltimore Evening Sun of July 26 1920) that “On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.”

What do I mean by “the collapse”?

The Obama administration (actually, the outgoing President in person) warned Trump against appointing General Flynn to the position of National Security Advisor, because of his links to the Russians. So what does Trump do? Yup, that’s right, appoint him to the position of National Security Advisor. Bear in mind that the outgoing administration had no axe to grind here: in fact, they were being (in spades, as it turned out) ultra patriotic. What happened next? The Acting Attorney General and her (equally acting) Deputy AG – both Department of Justice employees – wrote a letter to the White House Chief of Staff requesting a meeting in person and revealing all that was known about Flynn’s links to the Russians…and that he had lied about these to the Vice-President, Mike Pence. Their reward? They were sacked. And, 2 weeks later, so was Flynn…because he had lied to the VP about his contacts with the Russians.

Michael Flynn (l), Donald Trump (c) and James Comey (r)

And then, the day after this all came out, with the televising of Sally Yates open testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee (she was the fired Acting Attorney General), while we were still in New York, came the sacking of James Comey, Head of the FBI. Why, for goodness sake? This is the man who by re-opening the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails a week before the election probably cost her the election – according to a politically active US friend of ours: he claimed that at exactly that point there was a surge towards Hillary – why would Trump sack him? Why indeed? Later the same day, Trump revealed exactly why: because Comey was continuing with the “false” search into whether there actually is a link between Trump and the Russians that influenced the outcome of the election.

Methinks the President doth protest too much.

The media storm that followed was astonishing: even Fox News, right wing to a fault, was expressing scepticism concerning the President’s abilities.

You think it couldn’t get worse? It did, rapidly.

We returned to the UK last Wednesday (10 May). By Thursday, the White House was threatening to cancel Press Conferences, which means that the White House and the various Agencies will leak like sieves – as they are already starting to do. Where else do all these revelations come from? And does Trump think that all these career civil servants are personally loyal to him? Of course not. If not all, then the overwhelming majority are loyal to the Constitution of the US and to the Rule of Law.

Then today (16 May, as I write), it transpires that Trump met the Russian Foreign Minister, Lavrov, and the Russian Ambassador to the US in the Oval Office. Okay, so what? It’s what US Presidents do all the time. It’s an impressive place. But…Trump revealed intelligence gathered by an ally of the US as to a planned ISIS operation in a named city in (presumably) either Syria or Iraq with sufficient details to identify exactly who gained the intel. Given that the ally had specifically requested that this intelligence go no further and especially not to the Russians, what do you think the fall-out will be?

President Donald Trump and Russian FM Sergey Lavrov

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) argues that the source is, in fact, Israel.

How did the Israelis get this info? I have no idea, being merely a retired academic, but I would bet that if a single hair of an Israeli source is harmed as a result of Trump’s crass leakage of such sensitive information, that’s the last such information the Trump Administration will get from them. Yes, the President is entitled to pass on such “intel” to whomsoever he sees fit. BUT, even George W. Bush (whom I rate as one of the weakest Presidents until Trump), when he wanted to involve the Russians in an intelligence briefing, made sure the Intelligence Agencies had fair warning and agreed as to what the Russians could and could not be told.

I would urge all readers of this website to link to MSNBC for their news reportage, and especially Rachel Maddow’s programme, 9.00-10.00 pm, Monday to Friday. You won’t get it until at least 18-24 hours later, but she’s a very sharp mind and a great interviewer. MSNBC is a liberal news channel, but a very good one. Try it, and let me know what you think of it.

Anne adds:

Brian, as I said above, I’m glad to read differing opinions to mine – and I fear that my own opinions are moving towards your own as regards Trump. Much of my suspicion stems from Trump’s back-and-forth over relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem (the latest news is that he’s not moving it) as well as strange pronouncement by State Department officials that the “Kotel is not located in your country” (see beginning of this post).

I would just add that in today’s latest news, it appears (though who can believe anything any more?) that the intel that Trump leaked to the Russians did not originate in Israel, but rather in Jordan. That’s huge a sigh of relief for us at least, because if the intel had been Israeli sourced, Israel was planning a reconsideration of its intel-sharing with the US, with all the implications that this implies.

Not that this has stopped the American media for still speculating about the Israeli angle:

Meanwhile, US media continued to name Israel as the origin of the intelligence, with the Wall Street Journal reporting late Wednesday that multiple US officials had confirmed that the source of the information was Israeli and considered “the most valuable source of information on external plotting by Islamic State.”

Just these past couple of weeks demonstrate the volatility, if not unreliability, of the Trump administration. It’s not that he’s bad for America or for Israel. It’s just that we can’t get a handle on him, he’s unpredictable – and he seems not to realise how unnerving and how dangerous this situation is. And it is this that makes the world a more dangerous place.

He needs a few lessons on statecraft, not to mention public speaking, forthwith.

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10 Responses to Guest Post: Trump’s Presidency – a disaster in the making?

  1. Pingback: Guest Post: Trump’s Presidency – a disaster in the making? – 24/6 Magazine

  2. DP-PT says:

    I can’t help feeling that we are witnessing an orchestrated (by whom?) assault on Trump’s legitimacy which has not let up since the day he won the election. The elites, by which I mean the political, academic, entertainment and media classes, will not accept him as their leader and are making a determined effort to, first, delegitimise him, second – stop him implementing his polices, leading to third – impeachment. Granted that Trump is leading with his chin, and making every possible mistake, coupled with a clearly narcissistic personality, but he is only 4 months into his term and there is a learning curve which he is not being allowed to undertake. Obama, when he was green, was the darling of said elites and even received the Nobel Peace Prize at the outset for absolutely nothing at all. So IMHO Trump has the devil of a fight on his hands but I wouldn’t write him off yet.

    • anneinpt says:

      I definitely agree with your view, and yet… I can’t help feeling scared that this will all end in disaster, whether through Trump’s narcissim or the left’s underminig, or both. After all Trump’s narcissim is just feeding into the left’s delegitimization of him, and that in turn boosts his ego.

      Oy what a broch.

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        Actually, if Trump had just accepted his victory and got on with it, the left would have taken a deep breath and said little. But from the first, he failed, spectacularly, to act as a statesman, or even a competent politician. First, his inauguration was “the biggest ever”, he never listens, he hectors, etc, etc.

        BUT, and it’s a huge but, this is as nothing, and the left would have got over it, if he had been competent – or allowed the competent members of his administration to get on with running the country. He is, however, incapable of being sensible. He even alienates his actual or potential supporters. For example, during the campaign, he referred to Senator McCain (Obama’s opponent during the 2008 campaign) as a “coward” for allowing himself to taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese after having been shot down during the Vietnam War. McCain was subsequently tortured (he cannot raise right arm above his shoulder as a result) by the Vietcong.

        Trump can hardly be surprised that McCain is now in support of the appointment of a special prosecutor (which happened yesterday) into the whole Flynn and Russian interference in the US election affair. He even went on the record to say that this was now on a par with Watergate.

        Trump is even distracting his supporters from getting on with the political task of carrying out the Republicans agenda: they are too distracted with the ,meltdown of the Presidency and his potential obstruction of justice: an impeachable offence.

        It’s worse than I ever it would be this early in the first term.

        And this is the man who could be the saviour of the Middle East?

  3. John McCormick says:

    some where somehow my comments went awol. I continue. My experience with the media over 40 years is not good. But the ethics and morality of the anti trump media has sunk below the city sewer drains. They cannot report anything fairly. their use of leaks makes you think that their gleeful use of them makes their day. I used to think that the journalists that we saw on TV here were good. People like Anderson Cooper have gone way down in my estimation. Many others like him let there personal political view get in the way of reporting and doing there job. I watch Fox and CNN daily on TV here plus the BBC and SKY Australia /UK plus other US stations on line.
    I now question any American journalist that I meet here about their ethics and political views before I tell them anything. The best journalists here are the people whose political views I don’t Know and there are some.
    James Comey was here at Arrowtown for a FIVE EYEs intel conference two weeks ago, he flew in with 2 Grumman aircraft of staff and other agency people. The CIA boss flew in in a C40 that’s a military 737. Just doing their jobs. I saw live on TV in July last year Comey’s statement about HCR and the investigation into her. she was above the law it seemed. since then I have watched him and often watched the democratic senate leader and others condemn him over Clinton and now that Trump has fired him those same democratic party people attack Trump. Two faced lot there in the states. Comey broke laws often as it suited him. Sally yates got fired for refusing to do her job. Enforce the law. as enacted by the President. Had she done that in new Zealand she would have resigned before she got sacked. To think she is right is wrong. How the mayor of Chicago and others flout the immigration laws is crazy by our standards, such people should be locked up for breaking the law , after a trial of course. Should the mayor want to come to New Zealand he could not honestly answer the question has he broken any law. if he answered no then he would not be allowed in in as every customs and immigration officer here knows about sanctuary cities. Up holding the law of the land does not seem important to Liberal people.
    Berkerly banning speakers is something I find abhorrent. When that includes Jews then everything is wrong. I refer to Melanie Phillips from the UK banned but she spoke to Jewish students in a ‘secure room’. The only person banned from speaking in New Zealand is David Irving holocaust denier. He was denied entry to NZ.
    You people who call yourselves Liberals don’t know the meaning of the title. You are leftists who
    can not bring yourselves to except Trump You were crazy to think Clinton could win. She is the corrupt one and she should be charged. Her email thing is mind boggling. yet nothing is being done about it.
    Russia has always interfered in foreign elections. SO HAS THE UK THE USA AND FRANCE. Grow up the lot of you. There are people here who still say that the CIA murdered New Zealand Prime Minister Norman Kirk in 1973 using poison. He was a left wing Labour party Leader.
    The best spies of modern times were the diplomats of the Czars. So its time Americans grew up. If Russia interfered with last years election I’ll bet you they worked to help JFK win.
    It happens all the time. The NZ National party in the past has been funded by the CIA using kiwi people to spread the money around the party. How do I know that I was active in the party for many years. I have voted labour too. now I don’t belong to any party.
    Grow up you none republican voters and media people except the election result. The people of the east and west coast seem to think they are the country well you are only part of it.
    I knew Trump would win from when he called McCain a coward.
    I base that on my experience of working in election campaigns here in New Zealand Australia and the UK. I was an observer to Begin’s first win in 1977. I wrote about it for a publication here at the time.
    My name is John McCormick if anyone would like to talk to me, Anne has my number. Contact her and she can pass on my number.

    • anneinpt says:

      John, thank you very much for your long and considered comments. For some reason they got posted in the reverse order: your first one is the last on this page.

      I’m finding it fascinating to read the point-counterpoint of your view versus Brian’s. You’re both around the same age I guess (Brian is a retired academic) and grew up in Western societies having witnessed the same events.

      My instincts were very much according to your point of view during the elction campaign, but I cannot deny that I had my concerns due to Trump’s volatility. I know that that is partly what got him elected, but still, it worried me.

      Now I’m slightly more worried because of his tendency to run his mouth off, and doesn’t seem to listen to advice.

      Of course I could be completely wrong (I really hope so!) and this could all be more “fake news” from a very biased media. I think we’re going to have to wait and see, and in any event, there’s not a lot any of us can do about it since you’re in NZ, Brian is in the UK and I’m in Israel!

      (PS: I redacted your comment to remove your phone number from public view. You don’t want to be getting a load of spam phone calls. I have your number here, if anyone wants to contact you they can email me and I’ll pass it on to them.)

      • John McCormick says:

        Did you put the two items of mine togeather as they are ment to be.



        • anneinpt says:

          John, your two posts appeared in reverse order for some reason, but I mentioned this in my comment so that the readers can make sense of them.

  4. John McCormick says:

    To Brian Goldflarb. I don’t know you from a bar of soap but here is some comment from Down under from a small town called Waipukurau. I was at the side of the road at wellington airport in 1966 when LBJ came to ask Keith Holyoake for more troops for Vietnam. We were at war with Australia and the UK defending Malaysia /Singapore from attack by Indonesia. We were fighting to defend Sarawk and Brunei from communist Indonesian take over. LBJ got no more men You should note that every Kiwi that fought in Vietnam was A VOLUNTEER from the Co down. That’s my generation so now my comments.
    Trump has few friends in the Washington establishment. Be they in Justice, State or defense. I remember in 1973 when officials offered the Israeli Ambassador 3 F4’s as total resupply for the period of the war (Yom Kippur) In the end after the Ambassador said he would go public direct to the people of the US Nixon called in to the white house the chiefs of Staff and ordered them direct to resupply Israel from US forces In Germany and any where else.
    That was followed by the order of American forces going on a nuclear alert to counter anything the USSR may have tried. I think it was a DEV CON 2 alert.
    people in State and Defense were opposed to Israel as they are today. ‘Kotel is not in your territory’
    So what’s new. Who ever said that is a person who supports UNSC 2334 which is dead and gone.You can’t blame Trump for that comment from a civil servant who is anti Semetic. New Zealand has a new Foreign minister as of May 1 2017 and the first thing he did was to reverse our support of UNSC 2334. hail to Fat boy Brownlee.
    Trump is a reminder to me of prime Minister Robert Muldoon who lead NZ from 1975 to 1984. Every thing trump has did in the campaign was a rerun of Muldoon 1974/5 and I was right in the middle of that campaign. As a conservative Muldoon appealed to the working man and took votes of Labour hand over fist just as Trump did in the rust belt. In 1978 I worked for Margaret Thatcher and her first campaign.
    The media hate trump He is a threat to them. I would not put any credence into what I have seen on MSNBC any more than the Clinton news network.
    I lost this page now ifound it and is the first part to what just got posted.

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