Chart of Trump statements against reported COVID cases:
Hon. Ryan D. McCarthy, Secretary of the Army
Gen James C. McConville, Chief of Staff, United States Army
Hon. Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense
Hon. Sean O’Donnell, Inspector General (Acting), Department of Defense
Gen Joseph M. Martin, Vice Chief of Staff, United States Army
Lt Gen Thomas Seamands, G–1 (DCS Personnel), United States Army
RE: Systematic Leadership Failure
I am terribly disappointed, but not terribly surprised, at the leadership failure at senior levels of the Department of Defense and United States Army in allowing the intimidation, bullying, and loss of service to the nation of an officer selected for promotion who did his duty. In his own words, he will be fine; but the question shouldn’t even come up. I am less confident that the nation and the next generation of military leaders will be fine.
It is your job to ensure that those who are qualified for promotion to more-senior positions are promoted, free from outside interference. You have not succeeded in that tasking. Each of you must consider exactly what that means to the officers of today and of tomorrow. Each of you must further consider the permanent damage to the oath of commissioning — that one’s duty is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic — that this fiasco has done and will do in the future. Each of you must consider whether orders you have been given (however couched) regarding this matter are lawful, and how to respond personally to those orders. Each of you must consider what the treatment of Lt Col (P) Vindman — ratified through your silence — will mean to those who later must choose whether to speak truth to power outside of a combat-imminent situation.
Each of you must also consider a significant structural reform to the Defense and Army personnel systems, and advise the other services of your considerations and conclusions. There is no place for the insult of so-called “rehabilitative assignments” for commissioned officers.
Plenty more where that came from…
To be honest, I only read Thomas Friedman’s column if I’m really trying to procrastinate. I lost patience with him back in the “Friedman Unit” days.
But today’s column is a doozy. Maybe the best column he’s ever done. It’s called Mike Pompeo Is the Worst Secretary of State Ever and it’s got two devastating points.
The first one actually goes back to Pomepeo’s days as Director of the C.I.A: “while Pompeo was C.I.A. director, the first foreign-planned terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 was being organized here and abroad, and while he was secretary of state it was carried out.”
Hell, if that were me — if the first foreign-planned terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11 developed on my watch and if I had just gotten rid of the State Department inspector general without explanation — I’d also be trying to distract attention.
I mean, if it were me, I might even claim that China concocted the coronavirus in a lab in Wuhan. Wait — that’s what Pompeo did!
The second point is that, Pompeo “has been the worst secretary of state in American history, without a single diplomatic achievement. …. Pompeo’s two most notable accomplishments as secretary of state are, metaphorically speaking, shooting two of his senior State Department officials in the back.” One was US Ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch . “The other was the department’s inspector general, Steve Linick, whom Pompeo got Trump to fire, reportedly because he was investigating — wait for it now — Pompeo’s own efforts to evade a congressional ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and for improperly asking a State Department employee to run errands for him and his wife.”
But read the whole thing. I think it almost left scortch marks on the breakfast table.
Apparently, the official policy of the Justice Department at this moment is that if you are a Trump administration member, the following conduct is not worth prosecuting:
Mr. Flynn … was not forthcoming with Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Mr. Kislyak.
Mr. Flynn eventually admitted that those discussions were part of a coordinated effort by the president’s aides to make foreign policy before they were in power, which undermined the policy of President Barack Obama.
Mr. Flynn also lied in federal filings about his lobbying work for the Turkish government, court papers show.
And, furthermore, the FBI should not treat Trump administration members suspected of colluding with foreign governments as if they were — wait for it — suspects. As the Justice Department revealed in its court filing, by asking about meetings with foreign government representatives,
the [FBI] questioning “was untethered to, and unjustified by, the F.B.I.’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn” and that the case did not meet the legal standard that Mr. Flynn’s lies be “materially” relevant to the matter under investigation.
Is it any surprise, therefore, that
In a possible sign of disagreement with the Justice Department decision, Brandon L. Van Grack, the department lawyer who led the prosecution of Mr. Flynn, abruptly withdrew from the case on Thursday.
Add it all to the list.
You know, on days like today, I don’t care what happened in a hallway in 1993, or whether Biden is as sharp as butter. Maybe I’m a bad person. Or maybe there really is too much at stake.
Update: More details about just how weird and horrible today’s decision to (attempt to) abort the Flynn case — after he’d had guilty pleas accepted twice — can be found in this excellent analysis by Marcy Wheeler.
It’s said in all the finest newspapers and no doubt many blogs fine and otherwise that one of Vice President Biden’s electoral liabilities will be the Trump campaign’s expected hammering of his son Hunter’s commercial contacts with various Ukrainian companies. The facts of the Hunter Biden matter paint a picture of someone trading on the perception of family influence — getting a well-paid gig for which he was at best not particularly qualified. If didn’t rise to the level of Billygate, it nonetheless has a bad odor.
Meanwhile, conventional wisdom also states that Trump could execute a double whammy, and accuse Biden of being ‘soft on China’. This, the theory goes, plays to the nativist Trump base, but also to other voters who object to China for being Communist, or for being a low-cost destination to which manufacturing jobs run away. Biden, a committed internationalist, will — conventional wisdom asserts — be unwilling to be sufficiently rude to a major trading partner and growing regional power. And even if Biden tries to out-Trump on the anti-China front, he won’t be able to do it well or convincingly both because his heart won’t be in it and anyway, he’ll be letting Trump dictate the terms of the debate.
But what if the conventional wisdom is wrong? What if both the ‘corrupt relatives’ issue and the so-called ‘China issue’ could actually rebound to hurt the Trump campaign more than the Biden campaign? What if, for example, it were the case that voters could be persuaded to notice that it is Trump’s family that has been getting benefits directly from the Chinese government?
Although the story is oddly absent from my domestic printed media, the Guardian pulls no punches in describing yesterday’s public Presidential meltdown:
A toddler threw a self-pitying tantrum on live television on Monday night. Unfortunately he was 73 years old, wearing a long red tie and running the world’s most powerful country.
Donald Trump, starved of campaign rallies, Mar-a-Lago weekends and golf, and goaded by a bombshell newspaper report, couldn’t take it any more. Years of accreted grievance and resentment towards the media came gushing out in a torrent. He ranted, he raved, he melted down and he blew up the internet with one of the most jaw-dropping performances of his presidency.
This was, as he likes to put it, “a 10”.
Trump’s Easter had evidently been ruined by a damning 5,500-word New York Times investigation showing that Trump squandered precious time in January and February as numerous government figures were sounding the alarm about the coronavirus.
With more than 23,000 American lives lost in such circumstances, some presidents might now be considering resignation. Not Trump. He arrived in the west wing briefing room determined to tell the world, or at least his base, that he was not to blame. Instead it was a new and bloody phase of his war against the “enemy of the people”: the media. Families grieving loved ones lost to the virus were in for cold comfort here.
Even conservative bloggers understand how bad it was. Here’s Steve Berman, of The Resurgant,
Monday’s coronavirus press conference was a total disaster. It was a train wreck, launch failure, explosion of stupid. “Everything we did was right,” Trump said, straight faced, one day after Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted on CNN that no, not everything we did was right.
And this schoolyard exchange with CBS News’ Paula Reid:
But worst, is this gaffe. When asked what authority the president has to open the nation, when state governors are already forming coalitions, Trump responded, “I have the ultimate authority.”
This straightforward answer exposes many of Trump’s worst instincts, and his total misunderstanding of his role as POTUS. All of Trump’s talk about working with governors belies his true belief that he alone has the authority.
Of course, if all you read was the NY Times, you’d never know the nation just witnessed a train wreck. All they have is a sober news analysis which leads as follows:
The president’s insistence that only he can decide if the country should reopen for business was disputed by constitutional scholars and contrasted with his earlier message that it was not for the federal government to take the lead in fighting the virus.
It is an important point that needed making, but it hardly seems the whole story.