Over the years, the New York Billionaire property developer and TV personality famous for The Apprentice Donald Trump has made a number of remarks about running for US President.
Until 2015, many close to Trump have interpreted these remarks as being in jest, with little seriousness. When trump flirted with running for President in 2012, CNN reported that he donated $541,650 to the Federal Democratic Campaign.
However within a period of just over a year, Trump relatively new to the Republican Party, with no previous political experience, and holding views outside the mainstream Republican movement, has demolished the other Republican candidates for the republican Presidential nomination. Trump now stands on the verge of gaining Republican nomination in what is shaping up to be one of the most unusual and potentially bitterly fought presidential election campaigns in recent history.
What makes this current situation even more strange and ludicrous is the close relationship that the Clintons have enjoyed with Trump, and the number of mutual acquaintances who are also involved in this coming Presidential campaign that have worked for both political sides.
The events of the last twelve months point circumstantially to the possibility that Trump originally intended to be a spoiler within the GOP. The BBC went further and called Trump a Democratic secret agent. The Nation Review called Trump a ‘bogeyman’ , stating that ‘he couldn’t help the Democrats more if he were trying”.
According to The Washington Post, former President Bill Clinton had a private telephone conversation early 2015 with Donald Trump about a run for the Republican candidacy for the US Presidency. Insiders said that Clinton strongly encouraged Trump to run for Republican nomination. Although Clinton’s personal office confirmed the discussion took place, the Clinton spokesperson was silent on what was discussed other than generalities of the current political landscape.
The Washington Post stated that according to four Trump allies, the call was about Trump’s final decision to make a run for the Republican Presidential nomination. The Trump allies according to The Washington Post mentioned Clinton’s desire to rouse the GOP base. One person who had knowledge about the Clinton side of the call said that Clinton was “upbeat and encouraging during the conversation”.
This was one of many calls and meetings over the years between Clinton and Trump, who have a close working relationship. Clinton and Trump have played golf together, Trump had donated to the Clinton Foundation, and the Clintons had attended Trump’s 3rd wedding in the front row to Melania Knauss way back in 2005.
Thus circumstantial evidence points to the Trumps close ties with the Clintons.
Hillary Clinton’s own announcement that she would seek the democratic nomination for the US Presidential race on June 16th leads to many questions about Bill Clinton’s discussions with Donald Trump. These questions have never really been asked by the media, so remain unanswered.
Donald Trump is by no means a traditional Republican, and only joined the party in 2009 after being registered as a democrat back in 2001. He may best be described as a ‘New York liberal’ with a smattering of extremist views. Many Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan as a consequence have actually held back their support for Donald Trump, only giving a lukewarm promise to support him if he wins the nomination. Republican Party elders George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and Bob Dole, have not given any support to Donald trump.
Nevertheless, Trump has had a rapid and almost comical rise among the ranks of the Republican Party in what some pundits describe as a ‘hostile takeover.’
His harsh views on immigration are likely to cost votes within the Mexican community. He has changed his views regularly on issues like abortion. Trump is also advocating increasing social security with cuts from military spending. Trump is staunchly against trade agreements like Nafta, and may put to bed forever the fairy-tale of the TPP, if elected.
However his views on immigration aren’t too far away from Ted Cruz who favours the strengthening of the border and upholding of the law on immigrants. Like Trump, Cruz in his official webpage also talks about illegal immigrants being drug smugglers, child abusers, murderers, and other dangerous criminals entering the United States. Opinion within the Republican movement itself is changing towards allowing legal abortion. Trump shows out his pragmatism in social security, where cuts are deeply unpopular with voters. In trade, Trump is actually going back to old traditional republican values of tariffs to balance trade and isolationism in foreign affairs that were prevailing within the Republican Party pre-WWII.
So how is Trump helping the Hillary campaign?
Trump’s Primary campaign was so successful that he took away all the oxygen from the other candidates in the debate. His outrageous statements sucked up all the media time, letting the other candidates suffocate.
Trump was figured as a Republican candidate that the Clintons could easily defeat. That was in the early reckoning. However the Trump bandwagon has become the biggest media asset in the campaign so far.
Trump’s outlandish statements often came at times when the Hillary campaign was floundering. His media focus saved the democrats when they were in trouble a number of times. According to Noah Rothman of Commentary Magazine Trump’s outlandish comments always came when the democrats landed in controversy.
This was figured that Trump’s behaviour would help Hillary escape close scrutiny over the email and Benghazi issues, as well as flaws in some of her decisions and outright allegations of corruption dating back to the Little Rock days when her husband Bill Clinton was Governor. Trumps personality flaws would cover the character issues that Hillary must hide if she is to win the 2016 US Presidential election.
However, the biggest assistance Trump has been providing Hillary is ‘putting her in the victim’s position. As Jeb Bush claimed “she is good at playing the victim”. Trump’s attacks on Hillary would seem to give her a political advantage. This could help rallying women to the Hillary side according to Democratic Strategist Steve McMahon. Hillary can use these attacks to seek empathy from professional women, something she did very successfully back in 2000 and 2008.
Then there are the campaign personnel connections. The George Soros connection is interesting as he is both close to Trump and the Clintons. Trump’s new finance chairman Steve Mnuchen supported Hillary Clinton against Obama and is very close to George Soros.
Justin Raimondo in his blog Antiwar.com was the first to raise the hypothesis that Trump was running as a ‘spoiler’ candidate to run havoc within the GOP ranks during the primaries. Debra J. Saunders claimed that Trump’s role in the GOP was to disrupt party harmony in the lead up to the democratic Presidential Nomination Convention due to be held in July 2016. Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo of Florida called Trump a “phantom candidate ….to create a political circus.”
Trump’s original motivation could have been ego and the chance to play a national role through the media. Trump loves to play presidential. At first this could have been seen as the ultimate TV role, which he enjoys. The primaries and attention have been a ‘buzz’ for Trump, who as enjoyed being the non-politician politician. His personal imperfections have made human acceptably human and the messages he has been sending out are hitting raw nerves within the electorate.
Although Trump’s actions were meant to benefit his good friend Hillary Clinton, Trumps sudden electoral popularity in his own right has complicated things. Trump’s persona has been enlarged through the primaries into a force that cannot easily be contended with. Trump originally wanted to help Hillary, but know realizes he can carry away this election in his own right, and thus go against the informal understanding with the Clintons.
The Clintons are now facing-off with a monster persona they helped deliver to the US electorate.
Over the first few months of the primary season, Trump’s electoral popularity was low compared to Clinton. In July 2015 Trump polled 34% to Clinton’s 53%. However in September and December last year Trump came within 2 percentage points of Clinton in national polling.
Ronald Reagan was seen as a joke when he first made his run for the presidency. And as in the Reagan experience, Trump is shoring up in the opinion polls to where on 13th may he was just 2 percentage points nationally behind Hillary Clinton. The One America and Gravis Marketing poll shows the democratic presidential front-runner with 48% support while the GOP nominee at 46% in a head to head general election fight. Some polls actually put Trump in front. This is a position from where Trump can win.
With Trump showing overall strength in the California primary and Clinton struggling to gain a strong lead over Sanders, the momentum for Trump is rapidly growing. Trump is also winning over the conservative professional women vote, winning 57% of the women’s vote in the recent New York primary.
Hillary so far has campaigned on traditional Democratic issues such as Obamacare, guns, free speech, progressive policies, the economy and climate change. These issues aren’t working this time round as the Obama era was a great disappointment for many voters. Hillary is just not connecting to the electorate this time round. There is an air of change away from the failure of the Obama era towards something new, which Hillary has failed to grapple with.
In addition the Clinton-Sanders primary fight has divided the Democratic Party, where Sander’s supporters may not fall behind Clinton if she clinches the Democratic Nomination outright with a majority of delegates. Exit polls suggest that almost half of Sanders supporters will defect to Trump in a general election.
Trump has been abrasive during the primary season, which worked well for him. Trump is attacking the corrupt Hillary. However Trump also knows that too much negativity towards Clinton will benefit her. Trump is comical in his attacks, but he is also well disciplined.
Hillary is also in a quandary. She is living in a ‘glass house’ where attacks on Trump could backfire, even though Trump has provided her with so much material to potentially attack with, i.e., immigration. Consequently, she cannot attack Trump on women, policy, or integrity without expecting very damaging retaliation from the Trump camp.
Clinton’s attacks on Trump have been weak and haven’t had much effect to date. In addition Clinton personally doesn’t look comfortable attacking Trump on the hustings.
Trump has control over the campaign and has led it towards personalities, rather than policy. This is where Hillary is at her weakest, with many personal character negatives with a massive integrity gap to overcome. Trump is well armed with information from Edward Klein who wrote a number of unflattering books about the Clintons.
Trump has only personality negatives to overcome. The leaked recording of Trump advisor Paul Manafort’s presentation to Republican Party insiders revealed that the Trump campaign is undergoing a major strategy change that will not insult or polarize.
Trump worked successfully on the fears of working class voters. These people have great anxieties about change and Trump’s comments about Mexicans sending rapists and criminals over the border and banning all Muslims has tugged at the emotions of this segment of the electorate.
To the electorate, Trump doesn’t sound like a politician. The fact that many of the GOP leaders don’t support Trump can actually be seen as a positive for him out on the hustings. He is not establishment and doesn’t talk like a politician.
Trump’s biggest asset is waiting for the presidential debates which will be head to head with Hillary. Trump’s business rather than diplomatic language will be refreshing to the electorate this time round. Trump has a lot of ideas that can be considered new in defence, foreign policy, and in social-economics. Trump will appear the liberal and Hillary the conservative if she pushes the same directions as Obamaism.
Trump has some new directions in policy which should appeal to the electorate. His views on foreign policy are visionary and modern in contrast to the establishment views. If he wins this could set a new long term direction in US foreign policy. The branding of ‘America first’ is powerful and overturns old directions recognizing that the US doesn’t have the resources to be the world policeman and other countries should also do their fair-share of work in keeping world order. This is a major paradigm shift and will affect how the US conducts its international relationships with countries like China and Russia for many years in the future.
If Trump is successful in November, he may bring in a neo-Republican philosophy that actually encapsulates and modernizes Republican thinking in the 21st century. Let’s see if Trump the visionary comes out during the presidential debates. If he does, then the Clinton campaign could be shattered.
One will expect the members of the Republican Party quickly falling behind Trump at and after the republican Convention. Former Californian Governor Schwarzenegger is expected to lend his support at the convention. He is a winning brand who can give the Republicans another four years in the Whitehouse.
The Clintons have to think very hard about their future strategy. Her battle for the Democratic nomination is not over yet and she must be sure that this does not damage her. When she faces off with Donald Trump, it’s going to be close up and personal. Trump has outsmarted the Clintons from the very beginning. He has become their worst nightmare, where Trump has transformed from being the most unlikely to being the favourite to win the presidency.
This is going to be a very interesting presidential campaign.
Nancy Pelosi and her dual approaches
In her remarks, the United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asserted that Trump’s border wall campaign has nothing to do with border security. She said it’s one of the US President’s plans for energizing his conservative base, and in this way, he aims to distract the country from the various scandals dogging his administration.
“I don’t even know if the president wants the wall. I think he just wants a debate on the wall. And he’s having some difficulty with it,” Pelosi said during a press briefing at the Capitol.
“He keeps increasing the amount of money; increasing the amount of beds; increasing the obstacles to finding a solution — because I don’t think he really wants a solution,” Pelosi said. “I think he loves the distraction that this is from his other problems,” She added.
Pelosi, along with Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, noted that they disagree with Trump over building a physical border wall, which according to them, would be expensive and ineffective.
“Democrats and the president both want stronger border security. However, we sharply disagree with the president about the most effective way to do it … Most presidents have used Oval Office addresses for noble purposes. This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration,” said Schumer in answer to Trump’s recent remarks.
On the other hand, Pelosi is among those who are seriously standing against Trump’s impeachment. This dual approach taken by Pelosi towards the White House, and the fact that the House speaker and other Democrat leaders have argued against the serious consideration of Trump’s impeachment, may lead to conflicts inside the Democratic Party in the future.
“We have to wait and see what happens with the Mueller report. We shouldn’t be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn’t avoid impeachment for a political reason. So we’ll just have to see how it comes,” Said Pelosi.
However, Pelosi’s remarks were not unprecedented! When Pelosi was the House Minority Leader in the years between 2016 and 2018, she opposed the idea of impeaching Trump. Nancy Pelosi has made it clear that she has a conservative approach towards Trump. This is while with a majority of seats in the House of Representatives, Democrats can initiate impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump. The fact that some Democrat leaders have opposed Nancy Pelosi’s Minority leadership in the US House of Representatives is rooted in the same reason. In any case, it seems that Pelosi prefers scenarios such as “making a political deal with Trump” to “Confrontation with the President”. Nancy Pelosi argues that Democrats’ direct confrontation with Trump, and in particular the impeachment of the President of the United States, will lead to the anger of some American citizens, and the Democrats will be accused of posing a blow to the American political and social equations. However, it seems that some Democrats do not agree with Nancy Pelosi’s opinion! Politicians such as Bernie Sanders believe that Trump is not politically negotiable. They believe that any compromise reached between Democrats and Trump will hold a bad result for them in the US 2020 presidential election.
At any rate, there’s plenty at stake: Amid this crisis, Trump has come with the idea of declaring a national emergency at the border, a move that could free up wall funding without the Congress approval.
“If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely,” said Trump.
The US government shutdown, which is resulted from the disagreements over border wall funding, is still ongoing. Trump is demanding $5.7 billion for new wall construction; Pelosi and the Democrats have offered $1.3 billion for border security measures, but have opposed construction of any new physical barriers. In spite of this, Trump has previously claimed that he’s ready to hold the shutdown for months and even years! If Pelosi surrenders in the face of Trump’s demands, she would be regarded as a defeated figure inside the US political circles.
First published in our partner MNA
Trump is mocking Biden
News sources in the United States announced that Joe Biden, the U.S. former Vice-President (from 2009 to 2017), and a prominent figure in the Democratic Party will soon announce his run for the president in 2020. Biden has previously said that he’s “the most qualified person in the country” for being president.
Biden mentioned these words in a controversial interview which has attracted the attention of many American analysts. However, Biden’s final decision for participating in the presidential campaigns wasn’t clear. Eventually, a number of Biden’s followers, including his brother Frank Biden, announced his final decision to run for the general elections. Polls conducted in the United States indicate that Biden is currently more popular than other potential candidates of the Democratic Party in the upcoming elections.
Meanwhile, Biden is probably to face rivals such as Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, and even Hillary Clinton. During the 2016 presidential competitions, Biden was also scheduled to attend the in-party election competitions, but he changed his mind due to his son’s death and Hillary Clinton’s insistence on attending the presidential campaign. Biden’s remarks, however, show that he’s greatly interested in defeating Trump in the 2020 election.
However, we shouldn’t forget that Biden can’t really count on the current polls conducted among Democrat supporters! We can all remember that during the 2008 presidential elections and inside the Democratic Party, Obama had far less chance of reaching the final round of the elections than those like Hillary Clinton. But his successful speeches in states like Iowa and South Carolina led to Clinton’s final defeat and Obama’s victory.
Hence, the success of Biden’s rival candidates in states like Iowa and New Hampshire (where American in-party elections begin with them) can completely change the equations, and that won’t be to Biden’s advantage.
Accordingly, Trump’s position on Biden’s participation in the presidential competitions are noteworthy. In a phone interview with Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro, Trump called Joe Biden “weak”. He also claimed that he’s not worried about a potential challenge from the former vice president in the 2020 presidential race; “You know, a lot of people say Biden’s doing OK, but he was always a 1-percenter. He was a 1 percent guy. He ran two or three times, he never got above 1%, and then, Obama came along and took him off the trash heap, and he became the vice president. He’s weak. So, we’ll see what happens with him.”
Trump’s words came on the same day that Biden had told some top Democrats that he was definitely running for president. “If I’m walking, I’m running,” said Biden.
Trump’s literature on Biden’s presence in the U.S. presidential race, reflects the U.S. President’s dissatisfaction and anger with the country’s former Vice President and his candidacy. Obviously, Trump preferred figures such as Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren to be his potential rivals in the next general elections.
However, Trump knows well that Biden can challenge his position at the White House by maneuvering again on issues such as public medical health insurance plan. On the other hand, Trump attempts to turn the game into an emotional rivalry through using ugly words against Biden, and this is very much like Trump’s populist personality and approach. However, Biden now has his main focus on Democrats’ inner-party race, and he doesn’t consider direct competition with Trump until he has won his victory in the competition.
First published in our partner Tehran Times
John Bolton’s Hawkish Flight
The American edition of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), citing former and currently serving politicians who wished not to be named, reported a few days ago that the US National Security Council (NSC), led by presidential adviser John Bolton, turned to the Pentagon last autumn with a request to devise several variants of striking Iran.
The reason for such a request was a mortar attack carried out in September 2018 by a pro-Iranian group against the diplomatic quarter of Baghdad, where the US embassy is located. Two days later, a similar attack was reported to have occurred in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, where the American consulate is based. No casualties or damage were reported. However, former deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel described the shelling as an “act of hostilities” and made it clear that the United States should have responded with a “similar act.”
As a result, the US national security team held a series of meetings to discuss how the American side should respond. After that, Mr. Bolton urged the Pentagon to provide options for attacking Iran.
Officials neither confirmed nor denied the WSJ reports. NSC press secretary Garrett Marquis did not provide a clear answer to the question of whether the Council had been considering a military strike against Iran. “We are considering a full range of measures to ensure security and guarantee our interests,” he said.
It should be noted here that the general staffs of the armed forces of any self-respecting country plan variants of both offensive and defensive operations against a potential adversary in advance. This work is carried out with a constant analysis of the changes taking place in the camp of the enemy, and in their own country. Therefore, undoubtedly, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (US General Staff) has in its secret vaults a variety of options for a war with Iran – the main potential opponent of the United States, as Washington has called it on more than one occasion.
Another matter is the case of John Bolton, when his personal request, even through the channels of the National Security Council, was carried out, according to observers, bypassing President Trump. Such a request took the Pentagon by surprise and put defense department officials who were used to everything “in a shock.” However, the request was accepted for consideration.
According to the WSJ, the Pentagon provided a complete layout proposing some general options for the operation, including a cross-border air strike on an Iranian military facility, which would be mostly symbolic. But the then Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and other senior military officials strongly opposed retaliatory actions, arguing that the damage from the shelling of the US diplomatic missions was insignificant. And this basically logical viewpoint eventually prevailed.
But how will acting Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, act?
Any blow on Iran may lead to a full-blown armed conflict. Hypothetically, considering the possibility of an airstrike on an Iranian military facility, it will undoubtedly trigger a return missile strike by the Iranian armed forces on any US military base in the Middle East. The Iranian missile forces have every potential to do so. And this means a war.
Is the United States ready for such a scenario?
It has to be pointed out that even massive missile and air strikes against Iran will not force Tehran to surrender. As in any war, the winner must march over the conquered territory. This calls for a ground operation.
Is the United States ready for this?
As the Field Service Regulations the US Army recommends, in order to achieve the goal of an offensive in the direction of the main blow it is necessary to create at least 6-fold superiority over the defensive forces and facilities. The question arises whether the US Armed Forces are capable of building such a superiority at least in one direction of the Iranian theater of war?
The number of regular armed forces of Iran ranges, according to various sources, between 540 and 900 thousand. The defense doctrine of the IRI puts a major emphasis on the Basij Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps resistance forces, a paramilitary, irregular militia and a reserve force of the regular armed forces whose main task is to participate in the defense of the country’s territory. The main combat units of “Basij” are “Ashura” battalions, which consist of men, and “Al-Zohra” female battalions, numbering an average of 400 each. Currently, 2500 such battalions are formed in Iran, consisting of 1 million volunteers, well trained both militarily and ideologically. In total, Iran’s “Basij” system embraces more than 12 million Iranians.
Is it possible for the United States and their allies to outnumber, if not 6-fold, then at least by 2-fold, the regular and irregular forces of Iran in the Iranian theater of military operations on the ground (without using nuclear weapons)? The answer is clear – no. And the Pentagon is fully aware of this.
For this reason, the likelihood that the United States will venture into an armed conflict with Iran is small.
John Bolton’s actions can be described as dangerous amid the current situation in the top echelons of power in the United States, which is controversial, to put it mildly. The opposition Democrats are exerting a serious and effective pressure on President Trump, while the State Department (and other as significant structures) is trying, as journalists say, to prevent the president’s “reckless” decisions from being put into effect.
In turn, US National Security Advisor John Bolton is making the most of the current state of affairs putting an end to internal strategic debates and discussions that could reveal the controversies within the Donald Trump administration. Mr. Bolton does not want to hear conflicting points of view, hates leaks, and wants to control the entire flow of information that is sent to the US President. This is a sure way towards excessive consolidation of power in the hands of one individual. Moreover, sometimes he acts without notifying President Trump, like in the recent case in which he appeals to the Pentagon.
John Bolton is one of the irreconcilable hardliners on the issue of Iran. Having assumed his current position, Bolton stepped up the administration’s policy of isolating and exerting pressure on Iran, thereby demonstrating his hostile attitude toward Iranian leaders, which dates back to the days when he served as an official for the administration of George W. Bush. As a private individual, he called for military strikes on Iran, as well as a change of regime. In March 2015 – three and a half months before the signing of a nuclear deal, when it became clear to everyone that the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) was ready and its authors were busy putting the final touches to it, – Mr. Bolton published an article in The New York Times under a provocative headline “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran”. From the very beginning, John Bolton was against the JCPOA and fully backed President Trump in his efforts to pull out of the nuclear deal.
Bolton summed up his political credo in one phrase: “There is no such thing as the UN. There is the international community that can be headed by the world’s only superpower, which is the United States of America. ” This he says despite the fact that in 2005-2006, he was the US representative to the UN.
Defense department officials, The New York Times writes, express growing concerns that John Bolton may indeed provoke a serious conflict with Tehran at a time when President Trump is losing influence in the Middle East.
Concern is being voiced not only by US military and politicians but throughout the world. After all, the main danger lies in the unpredictability of actions of President Trump and his hawkish employees, like John Bolton.
first published in our partner International Affairs
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