- Iran’s economy—inflation reaching 50 percent and GDP down 6 percent–has been hammered by sanctions as its oil exports have dropped from 2.5 million barrels a day to 500,000. Now its biggest—sanctions notwithstanding—customer is China. No surprise, and no lack of irony. The U.S. unilaterally withdraws from the Iran nuclear deal and unilaterally initiates a trade war with China. And China winds up helping out Iran.
- Amid all the turmoil of a trade war—and consequent roiling markets–is there little doubt now that the U.S would have been better off staying in the Trans-Pacific Partnership? A free trade agreement, the TPP would have aligned all the major Pacific economies—minus China—around America’s trade standards—and interests—and lowered tariffs on a ton of American products. Having the leverage of partners, including European Union countries that (still) respect us, would make eminently more sense than a base-pandering, vanity confrontation between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping.
- Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, is leaving, effective Oct. 3. Questions will trail him. Foremost: Why did he take the seemingly no-win position in the first place? Did he take one for his country—the diplomatic counterpart of Gen. Jim Mattis at Defense—to counterbalance a volatile, unhinged president? Or as a former Utah governor, former ambassador to China and former Republican presidential candidate, did he want back in the game at any cost? His resignation letter offers few specifics, but does resonate with realpolitik. “No reset or restart is going to help,” notes Huntsman, “just a clear understanding of our interests and values.”
And why exactly is he leaving? Was working around the beyond-bizarre Trump-Vladimir Putin relationship—in the context of Russian election assaults, Ukraine-related sanctions, Syrian civil war sides and “golden showers” tales—too much for any human being outside the true Trumpster orbit to endure? Was it a visceral desire to just delouse himself—and preserve what’s left of his reputation? Was it another run for Utah governor next year? A combination?
And what was Huntsman’s impact? Did he unduly lend unearned credibility to an unconscionably unprepared Trump? And while you can’t ultimately prove a negative, was his experience and professional presence actually a behind-the-scenes brake on bilateral scenarios that could have been even worse?
- Who better to urge “Red Flag” laws than a “Red Flag” president? As for removing guns from those who pose a “public safety threat,” that should mean that Trump can’t carry.
- And speaking of “background checks,” too bad the Trump base paid no mind to what had been public record for decades about Trump—from filing bankruptcies and lying pathologically to bullying the vulnerable, fostering racism and preying on women. Or were they just that enamored of “The Apprentice” and that smoldering in their resentment to an Obama presidency?
- “It’s CRITICAL that we STOP THE INVASION.”—A recent Trump campaign Facebook ad. Timing is everything.
- “I refuse to be a prop.”—That was Texas Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, whose district includes El Paso, on why she declined to meet with President Trump. Too bad Mike Pence doesn’t feel the same way.
- “Trump the Healer”? As if. Then how about “Putin the Peacenik” or “Kim the Kibitzer”?
- Try Googling “Trump and Kim.” Both Khardashian and Jong Un come up. Says volumes.
- It’s bad enough that George Wallace is back in the conversation, but now we’re seeing references to Nathan Bedford Forrest, a founder of the KKK.
- “We’re better than this.” If we have to keep saying it, are we? We’ll have a come-to-Jesus answer in 2020. Either America will have rebelled against the revolting and expunged Trump from the Oval Orifice—and mitigated the damage. Or America will have doubled down on despicable—with collateral damage far into the future. Not exactly a Hobson’s choice.
- Thanks to more sanctions on Venezuela, John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, remains prominent in the news cycle. Speaking of the foreign policy neo-con, here’s an outtake from Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” that is a reminder of how a couple of Trump insiders assessed Bolton. It’s a post-election, pre-inauguration exchange between Roger Ailes and Steve Bannon:
- Ailes: “(Bolton’s) a bomb thrower. And a strange little f—er. But you need him.”
- Bannon: “Bolton’s mustache is a problem. Trump doesn’t think he looks the part. You know Bolton is an acquired taste.”
- Ailes: “Well, he got in trouble because he got in a fight in a hotel one night and chased some woman.” Bannon: “If I told Trump that, he might have the job.”
- I hadn’t been sleeping that well for a while. But there were a few non-Rx approaches at the ready. Subtract some coffee, add some Melatonin, work in a diffuser. Didn’t help enough. But there was one remaining option. I turned the TV off early, read for a longer period, walked my adorable, senior Peekapoo Zeek on last call and called it a night. Zzzzzzzzz. There’s a reason why it’s advised that you knock off the screen time well in advance of going to bed. It otherwise leaves you too wired. Especially when screen time inevitably means screed time–from cable political analysis and TrumpSpin.