By Doug Porter
There are lots of words to describe the President of the United States bragging about how smart he is in front of Russian officials. Treason is one. Careless is another. Clueless is yet another.
Yet the likelihood of consequences for this ‘intelligence disaster’ are slim and none. The chief executive can choose to declassify anything he wants. The country providing this information on the condition it not be shared wasn’t asked their opinion, however.
And there are not even close to enough people with the backbone willing to participate in the checks and balances system created by the nation’s founders. Why? Follow the money.
Out of Control
Leaking the details about the ISIS scheme to build a bomb in a laptop to blow up airliners likely resulted in the elimination of the intelligence source responsible for the information.
Trump’s information sharing makes him look foolish, if not dangerous. His staff’s scrambling to cover for the President and his subsequent admission are symptoms of an executive branch spinning out of control.
After news of Trump’s revelations broke Monday, Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Foreign Relations committee, said the White House is in a “downward spiral.”
“Obviously they’re in a downward spiral right now and they’ve got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening,” Corker told reporters in Washington. “And the shame of it is, there’s a really good national security team in place…but the chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline is creating an environment that I think makes — it creates a worrisome environment.”
How big a deal is this? The public certainly is interested: The Washington Post, which originally broke the story, saw record-setting traffic on its website. The New York Times, Reuters, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal all verified the facts in the story.
Fox News refused to cover it initially, preferring to elevate a discussion about Hillary Clinton’s email server. (Really!) Breitbart, the Pravda of the alt-right set, claimed the story was the result of a deep state plot.
The White House correspondent for the Associated Press is saying European officials are debating the value of future intelligence sharing with the U.S.
The Russians had their own unique response. Via Reuters:
A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman on Tuesday advised that people don’t read American newspapers, in response to U.S. media reports that President Donald Trump had disclosed classified intelligence at a meeting with Russian officials.
The spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said she had received dozens of messages asking about the reports, which have been denied by the White House.
“Guys, have you been reading American newspapers again?” she wrote on her Facebook page. “You shouldn’t read them. You can put them to various uses, but you shouldn’t read them. Lately it’s become not only harmful, but dangerous too.”
Saying the country’s intelligence industrial complex is apoplectic may be an understatement. Via Daily Kos:
“This is really the nightmare scenario for the intelligence community,” Ned Price, a former CIA officer and member of the National Security Council staff under former President Barack Obama, told MSNBC.
Eliot Cohen, another Bush-era State Department official and professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins School of International Studies, called the report “appalling.”
“If accidental, it would be a firing offense for anyone else,” Cohen tweeted. “If deliberate, it would be treason.”
Senator John McCain has wrinkled his brow and issued a ‘deeply disturbed’ statement, which roughly translates into the same level of sincerity as when NRA toadies urge us to pray for the victims of gun violence.
It’s likely Congressman Scott Peters’ words will fall on deaf ears:
“From the beginning I said I was willing to work with President Trump on shared priorities, but this crosses every line. All members of Congress – Republicans and Democrats – should be standing shoulder to shoulder as patriots to demand answers from President Trump so that we can contain the damage and help keep Americans safe. Anything less is a dangerous failure of Congress to faithfully execute its role as a check on the power of the President as the founders intended.”
The political crisis facing our nation is obvious. The reason Trump will get a pass from his fellow Republicans should be equally obvious.
Deal With the Devil
Republican officials interviewed in private are willing to say they think Trump is unfit for the job of President. Or some variation on that theme.
The bottom line in this political equation is, however, the bottom line of America’s wealthiest. And Republicans believe no matter how unstable or embarrassing Trump may be, he represents the best chance in a generation for their fiscal and social agenda.
Given that there is no actual tax plan before Congress other than some bullet points issued by the administration, the best way to understand this willingness to drive the country over a cliff in class terms.
There is already a massive shift in wealth occurring and Republicans want to accelerate the process. To their way of thinking it’s part of the natural order of things.
From Paul Buchheit at Common Dreams:
Some evidence comes from a Pew study that found 2/3 of Republicans believing that a person is rich because he/she has worked harder than others. Those disdainful of the poor may not realize that in the eight years since the recession, the Wilshire Total Market valuation has more than TRIPLED, rising from a little over $8 trillion to nearly $25 trillion, with the great majority of that passive wealth going to the very richest Americans. In 2016 alone, the richest 1% effectively shifted nearly $4 trillion in wealth away from the rest of the nation to themselves, with nearly half of the wealth transfer ($1.94 trillion) coming from the nation’s poorest 90% — the middle and lower classes, according to Piketty and Saez and Zucman. That’s over $17,000 in housing and savings per lower-to-middle-class household lost to the super-rich.
How this translates into administration/ GOP policy is best explained by a quote from a New Yorker story on Trump backer Robert Mercer, written by Jane Mayer: (emphasis added)
Magerman told the Wall Street Journal that Mercer’s political opinions “show contempt for the social safety net that he doesn’t need, but many Americans do.” He also said that Mercer wants the U.S. government to be “shrunk down to the size of a pinhead.” Several former colleagues of Mercer’s said that his views are akin to Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Magerman told me, “Bob believes that human beings have no inherent value other than how much money they make. A cat has value, he’s said, because it provides pleasure to humans. But if someone is on welfare they have negative value. If he earns a thousand times more than a schoolteacher, then he’s a thousand times more valuable.” Magerman added, “He thinks society is upside down—that government helps the weak people get strong, and makes the strong people weak by taking their money away, through taxes.” He said that this mind-set was typical of “instant billionaires” in finance, who “have no stake in society,” unlike the industrialists of the past, who “built real things.”
Another former high-level Renaissance employee said, “Bob thinks the less government the better. He’s happy if people don’t trust the government. And if the President’s a bozo? He’s fine with that. He wants it to all fall down.”
What Could Go Wrong?
#BREAKING Trump to give speech on Islam in Saudi Arabia: White House
— AFP news agency (@AFP) May 16, 2017
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