Month: April 2017

Hide the Aircraft Carrier

That Prez! He’s practiced at the art of deception, alright.  This time he snagged a lot of ordinarily careful people. Like Rachel Maddow.  Last night, Rachel’s opening stemwinder was about making the Aircraft Carrier Carl Vinson disappear.  It started last Saturday when Reuters published an item, leaked from the White House no doubt, that the Carrier group was steaming for the Sea of Japan, to be ready just in case. “Freedonia’s going to war,” is what most pundits concluded.

On Sunday the administration had placed its gray eminences on the Sunday talk shows, ready to be questioned on the bold stroke of pointing this flotilla at North Korea.  McMaster, Mattis, and Spicer the following day said that it would be a prudent thing to do. The Prez himself went a little further (doesn’t he always?), saying that we were sending an Armada.  He didn’t say where.  In fact, the Carrier group was never ordered to the Sea of Japan. It was conducting exercises in the Southern Hemisphere with our buddies from Australia.

But wait! They all said – !

Said what?  “It would be prudent?”   Didn’t think these guys were subtle enough for the conditional?  You think that only OJ “If I Killed Her” Simpson has that kind of pizzazz.  A lot of the press was careless, failing to follow up vague answers with specific questions.  They were made to look foolish.  

For the often brilliant Maddow, it’s becoming a habit. She gushed over a 20-year-old Trump tax return that said nothing.  Last night, she joined the many who didn’t pay close enough attention to get the story right because they were rushing to get out a sensational news item.  Only it was bunk.  Fool me once…I guess Dubya was wrong – they got fooled again.  Rachel has not been on top of her game lately.

Aside from fooling the press, who did the Administration think was getting conned? Surely, anyone with a satellite can track the movement of a carrier group.  China must have known there was no forward fleet.  North Korea must have known too. Even if the Beloved Leader’s satellites dropped out of the sky, China would have passed along the message. Unless of course, North Korea hadn’t gotten the fake news in the first place. 

 The Prez is known to be a fan of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. He thinks Sun is terrific. He hoped to get him a seat in the cabinet or at least pitch him to do a speaking tour with Frederick Douglas, another rising star.  The Art of War teaches:

“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”

That might have worked in 500 B.C., but surveillance has improved since them. Trump may well hide his true intentions but he made fools of the press first and his administration second.  Won’t get fooled again?  Right.

Nuclear Options

How strange but fitting that the U.S. Senate uses the nuclear option of ultimate annhiliation as metaphor for repealing the filibuster on Supeme Court nominations. After all, the appointment of a judge to the nation’s highest court for a lifetime is the most consequential selection entrusted to the Senate.  Because 60 votes are needed to end a filibuster, in effect the same number was needed for the Senate to approve a nominee. In theory at least.  But when Neil Gorsuch’s nomination is approved by a simple majority of senators today, it will be the result of yesterday’s repeal of the filibuster rule on Supeme Court appointments.  Ka-boom.

McConnell and Schumer, Majority and Minority leaders, both say that the filibuster will not be repealed on legislative matters, but why not? If they’ve adopted a take-no-prisoners approach to their most solemn executive appointment, why not lower the bar for more mundane matters, such as health care? I would add the power to declare war but Congress surrendered that one years ago.   They just pay the bills and let the President declare and conduct wars on his own.

Now,  the U.S. Secretary of State has said, in reference to North Korea, that all options are on the table— which would include an option to drop a nuclear bomb on the Hermit Kingdom.  The nuclear option as non-metaphor. That table he’s talking about might be a gold-encrusted banquet at which Trump and Xi dine at Mar-a-Lago this weekend, in the secure cocoon of the Secret Service and a few hundred of the Palm Beach nobility out for a big night.  Out of stone crabs, are we? I’d dreaded the day that generals ran the country’s foreign policy, but under current circumstances, it’s reassuring. At least, they know what real nuclear options are.

So, our beloved Senate, a bastion of restraint and experience, is as divided as Korea. The parties are so polarized that the two caucuses have lost the ability to compromise. They cannot talk across party aisles, even when the unity of Americans as one people is at stake.  Nuclear option is an apt description after all for a policy that can alter forever the politics of the republic.

Despite the extremes of public opinion, a relatively restrained, conservative and collegial Senate once horse-traded its way to centrist politics.  In a good settlement, everybody walks away slightly unhappy. But there will be few settlements if a minority has no leverage against strict party-line majority voting. There will be no balance in government, only a pendulum swinging in a wider, scarier arc.




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