Saturday, January 12, 2019

Weekend Roundup

As actual voting is just around the corner, I've started to stray from my no-campaign pledge. Part of this is that my wife has gotten much more involved, and is regularly reporting social media posts that rile her up. She's strong for Bernie, and I've yet to find any reason to argue with her. Several pieces below argue that only X can beat Trump. For the record, I don't believe that is true. I think any of the "big four" can win -- not that there won't be momentary scares along the way. Trump has some obvious assets that he didn't have in 2016: complete support of the Republican political machine, which has been remarkably effective at getting slim majorities to vote against their interests and sanity; so much money he'll be tempted to steal most of it; and even more intense love from his base. On the other hand, he has a track record this time, and he's never registered an instant where his approval rating has topped 44%. Plus I have this suspicion that one strong force that drives elections is fear of embarrassment. Thanks to the Hillary Clinton's unique path to the nomination, that worked for Trump in 2016, but no one on the Democratic side of the aisle is remotely as embarrassing as Trump -- well, Michael Bloomberg, maybe. He's the only "major" candidate I can see Trump beating. Indeed, if he somehow manages to buy the Democratic nomination, I could see myself voting for a third party candidate. I'm not saying he would be worse than Trump, but a Democratic Party under him would never be able to right the wrongs of the last 40+ years.

One indication of the current political atmosphere is that Trump's "wag the dog" attack on Iran didn't budge public opinion in the least (except, perhaps, in favor of Bernie among the Democrats). Trump walked back his war-with-Iran threat, no doubt realizing that the US military had no desire to invade and occupy Iran, and possibly seeing that the random slaughter of scattered air attacks would merely expose him further as a careless monster. Still, he did nothing to resolve the conflict, and won't as long as his Saudi and Israeli foreign policy directors insist on hostile relations. He sorely needs a consigliere, like James Baker was to Bush Sr., someone who could follow up on his tantrums and turn them into deals (that could have been made well before). All he really needs to do to open up Iran and North Korea is to let the sanctions go first, to establish some good will, and let those countries be sucked into normalcy with mutually beneficial trade. Most other foreign policy conflicts could be solved without much more effort. And he has one advantage that no Democrat will: he won't have a psycho like Donald Trump constantly attacking him from the right, arguing that every concession he makes is a sign of weakness. The only deal he's delivered so far (USMCA) is a fair test case. It sailed through without serious objection because the only person deranged enough to derail it kept his mouth shut.

More links on Iran, war, and foreign policy:

Some scattered links this week:

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