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Trump destroys the sanctity of the Presidents Club

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One of the most disturbing elements of the Trump presidency, nearly one year after his stunning win, has nothing to do with nuclear weapons, war, white supremacists or Russia. These things are tangentially involved, but not central to what I believe is the worst legacy Trump could leave. If history judges him harshly (and it will) on political issues, he will be judged more harshly because he has destroyed the sanctity of the Presidents Club.

This club has unwritten rules that actually have a purpose behind them. Since George Washington (who hated the concept of political parties and “factions”), former presidents have generally withheld the harshest criticism of the current occupants of the office. Violations of this rule have generally brought swift condemnation from the press and the former president’s own party.

One example from 2007: Jimmy Carter was raked over the coals for calling George W. Bush’s administration “the worst in history.” Though he publicly retracted the statement, the sting was palpable.

“His language was much sharper than what you’d normally hear” from an ex-president, said the presidential historian Michael Beschloss. But he and other presidential scholars roll their eyes at the notion that former presidents do not speak ill of current ones.

Criticism is a privilege of former presidents to be exercised judicially. We know that as the office changes hands (and parties), there will be disagreements. Eisenhower thought Kennedy was foolish (and Kennedy eventually came around to some of Ike’s policies). Teddy Roosevelt was withering in his criticism of Taft and Wilson, but as historians note, he remained a candidate for president.

The rules for candidates are much, much more lax than for former presidents who will not seek office again. Given that the five living presidents today are all in the category of not seeking office (two are too old, and three have served two terms), the unwritten rules for the club of living presidents should apply. This especially holds true for former and current presidents of the same party.

But Trump doesn’t allow it. He accepts no criticism and responds forcefully to the slightest implication of error.

White House attacks legacies of both Bush presidents after reports that they refused to vote for Trump – The Washington Post

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/11/04/both-bush-presidents-openly-condemned-trump-book-claims-one-even-voted-for-clinton/?utm_term=.a4d486b47960The White House on Saturday disparaged the legacies of the only two living Republican presidents to precede Donald Trump, after reports that both men castigated Trump in interviews last year and refused to vote for him.

Bush-Trump war

The Washington Post reported that the White House responded to the two former Bush presidents’ remarks about Trump with venom against Bush’s Iraq foreign policy.

“If one Presidential candidate can disassemble a political party, it speaks volumes about how strong a legacy its past two presidents really had,” the White House wrote to CNN. It called the younger Bush’s decision to wage war on Iraq “one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in American history.”

Right or wrong, this is a serious breach of the Presidents Club rules by both the Bushes and Trump.

Why this is important

Three things have always marked a peaceful transition of power in the United States. One: the outgoing president does not contest the results of the election or declare it invalid. Two: the small club of ex-presidents recognizes the weight of the office on the current president and offer discreet assistance or advice. Three: the current president returns the favor by not generally going after the previous presidents either legally or in the media.

The Trump presidency has violated two of these, and nearly violated the third. There was a real push to somehow find a smoking gun to declare Trump’s election invalid in the days between November 8 and January 20th. This included using every branch of federal law enforcement along with secret FISA warrants. This doesn’t mean Trump had no part in provoking it, but still, this is a very dangerous precedent.

If the sanctity of the President’s Club cannot be restored, we may find future presidents not simply criticizing, but prosecuting Trump or their own antecedents.

Final thoughts

We should not be smug or casual about this. The Presidents Club is important because there are so few living presidents at any given time, and the office carries so much power with it.

Destroying the sanctity of the relationship between the men who have occupied the office of president, and opening up future presidents to every kind of legal action is the worst thing President Trump could do to this country. If this is his legacy, then regardless of what other results he might obtain, his fitness for the office will be a subject historians will treat most unkindly.

Foreign Affairs

White House plan to kick Iran from Syria leaked

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White House plan to kick Iran from Syria leaked

Syria has been in a state of disarray for nearly a decade now. Ever since the infamous “red line” that President Obama failed to enforce, the Middle Eastern nation has been suffering through war, poverty, and occupation by hostile forces ranging from the Islamic State to Russia and Iran.

The Islamic State may no longer be an occupying threat in Syria, but Iran and Russia are. The White House has a plan to push them out of the country. It does not involve military engagement, though U.S. military personnel may engage if they feel threatened. Instead, the plan is to offer aid to the Syrians wherever they need help, except where Iran and Russia have a presence.

This represents a huge chunk of the crumbling nation.

Trump administration has new plan to drive Iran out of Syria

“There’s a real opportunity for the U.S. and its allies to make the Iranian regime pay for its continued occupation of Syria,” said Mark Dubowitz, chief executive at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank strongly opposed to the Iranian regime.

Driving Iran out of Syria would be one prong in an approach that would also involve continuing to destroy remaining pockets of Islamic State fighters and finding a political transition after the exit of both ISIS and Iran that does not call for Syrian President Bashar al Assad to step aside.

My Take

Any measure that does not put Americans in harms way is worth pursuing. As long as Syria is as vulnerable as it is, there are risks to both American and Israeli interests in the region. The war-torn nation needs help rebuilding so they can rightly remove Iran’s and Russia’s presence.

Perhaps more importantly is the need to rejuvenate a homeland for millions of refugees. They are already causing major problems in countries throughout Europe and Asia. If we can expedite the renewal of their homeland, it will prompt many to return.

We have no business fighting battles in Syria. The White House plan would use diplomacy and economic pressure to rid Syria of their occupying forces. It’s a long shot, but it’s better than further military conflicts.

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News

Australia considers moving their embassy to Jerusalem

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Australia considers moving their embassy to Jerusalem

When U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would be moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the international outcry was fairly universal. The thinking for decades has been that if the international community recognizes Israel’s capital, then tensions and conflict in the region would grow.

A year after the announcement, not much has changed. Conflict is still there, though not notably higher. The world hasn’t ended even though we’re months away from the move being completed. Now, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated he may be willing to follow President Trump’s lead and move their embassy to Jerusalem as well.

My Take

A nation should be allowed to declare its own capital. Israel is the only nation on the planet that the international community refuses to allow this privilege because they believe the “contested” lands in Israel will some day be “returned” to the Palestinians.

Even as just about every world leader pushes for a two-state solution, it’s refreshing to see concessions being made to Israel instead of the incessant cries for Israel to concede everything they have.

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Democrats

Heidi Heitkamp just blew her reelection hopes to smithereens

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Heidi Heitkamp just blew her reelection hopes to smithereens

Things weren’t looking good for Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) in her race against Republican Kevin Cramer. Her no-vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation made her poll numbers fall, but there was still hope at the incumbent’s camp that she could turn it around in the last three weeks.

Those hopes just blew up in their faces.

An ad posted to the Bismarck Tribune by her campaign attempted to shame Cramer by listing the names of dozens of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or rape who allegedly stood with her. Here’s the problem. Some of the women listed are coming forward saying they didn’t give permission to use their names, do not support Heitkamp, or weren’t victims as indicated by the ad.

By trying to pretend she was the sensitive one, Heitkamp outed victims against their will.

Women Say Heitkamp Campaign Identified Them as Sexual Assault Survivors Without Their Permission

https://www.sayanythingblog.com/entry/women-say-heitkamp-campaign-identified-them-as-sexual-assault-survivors-without-their-permission/In a separate Facebook post, Eve Lancaster of Bismarck also indicates that her name was included in the letter without her permission. She describes herself as “disgusted” and “furious.”

I’ve communicated directly with two of the women who say they were misidentified and I’m working on getting more information from them.

I’ve reached out to the Heitkamp campaign for comment about this ad, asking how it came to be and how the names were chosen for the ad, but the Senator and her Senate/campaign staff don’t typically respond to me.

The irony here is that the ad was supposed to portray a thoughtful and proactive Senator who was willing to hear the concerns of victims. It demonstrated the exact opposite, demonstrating that neither she nor her team took the time to actually reach out to the women they were allegedly trying to support.

She has issued an apology of sorts.

“Sexual assault is a serious crime – and one that too many North Dakota women have experienced,” Heitkamp said. “In an attempt to bring awareness to this issue and push back against dismissive comments toward sexual assault survivors by Kevin Cramer, our campaign worked with victim advocates to identify women who would be willing sign the letter or share their story.”

Too little, too late.

My Take

This should be the end of her campaign. In a sane world, you can’t do something like that and still keep your job. This is the political world where sanity is not required, but hopefully the people of North Dakota will hear about this and be rightly disgusted.

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