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Trump’s ‘spoiler’ campaign for the Clintons is turning into a fierce feud for the US Presidency

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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.

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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.

Innovator and entrepreneur. Notable author, thinker and prof. Hat Yai University, Thailand Contact: murrayhunter58(at)gmail.com

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Americas

Trump’s legacy hangs over human rights talk at upcoming Biden-Putin Geneva summit

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Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Two days after the NATO Summit in Brussels on Monday, US President Joe Biden will be in Geneva to hold a much anticipated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders are meeting at the shores of Lake Geneva at a villa in Parc la Grange – a place I know very well and actually called home for a long time. The park itself will be closed to the public for 10 days until Friday.

A big chunk of the lakeside part of the city will be closed off, too. Barb wire and beefed up security measures have already been put in place to secure the historic summit. The otherwise small city will be buzzing with media, delegations and curious onlookers.

I will be there too, keeping the readers of Modern Diplomacy updated with what’s taking place on the ground with photos, videos and regular dispatches from the Biden-Putin meeting.

The two Presidents will first and foremost touch on nuclear security. As an interlude to their meeting, the NATO Summit on Monday will tackle, among other things “Russian aggression”, in the words of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Last week, Stoltenberg said that he “told President Biden that Allies welcome the US decision, together with Russia, to extend the New START Treaty, limiting strategic weapons, and long-range nuclear weapons”. To extend the treaty is an important first step for Stoltenberg. This will be the obvious link between the two summits.

But Biden also has to bring up human rights issues, such as the poisoning and imprisonment of Alexei Navalny and Putin’s support for the jailing of Belarusian activists by Lukashenko. Human rights have to be high on the agenda at the Geneva Summit. And indeed, Biden has confirmed officially that pressing Putin on human rights will be a priority for the American side.

Biden and Putin are not fans of each other, to say the least. Both have made that clear in unusually tough rhetoric in the past. Over the years, Biden has said on numerous occasions that he has told Putin to his face that he doesn’t “have a soul”. Putin’s retort was that the men “understand each other”.

Right at the beginning of his Presidency, earlier this year, Biden also dropped the bomb calling President Putin a “killer” for ordering the assassination of political opponents. The Russian president responded to the “killer” comment on Russian television by saying that “it takes one to know one”. Putin also wished Biden good health, alluding to the US President’s age and mental condition which becomes a subject of criticism from time to time.

Understandably, Putin and Biden are not expected to hold a joint press conference next week. But we weren’t expecting that, anyways.

For me, this Summit has a special meaning. In the context of repression against political opponents and critical media voices, President Biden needs to demonstrate that the US President and the US government are actually different from Putin – if they are any different from Putin.

This week, we were reminded of Trump’s legacy and the damage he left behind. One of Trump’s lasting imprints was revealed: Trump had the Department of Justice put under surveillance Trump’s political opponents. Among them House Democrats, including Congressman Adam Shiff, who was one of the key figures that led Trump’s first impeachment that showed that Trump exerted pressure on Ukrainian authorities to go after Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

In the context of Trump’s impact, President Biden needs to show that there has to be zero tolerance towards the cover up by the US government of politically motivated attacks against voices critical of the US government. If President Biden wants to demonstrate that the US government is any different from Putin’s Russia, Secretary of State Blinken and FBI director Chris Wray have to go. Biden has to show that he won’t tolerate the cover up of attacks on political critics and the media, and won’t spare those that stand in the way of criminal justice in such instances.

Biden is stuck in the 2000s when it comes to Eastern Europe, as I argued last week but he needs to wake up. President Biden and the US government still haven’t dealt effectively with Trump’s harmful impact on things that the US really likes to toot its horn about, such as human rights and freedom. Whether the upcoming Geneva Summit will shed light on that remains to be seen.

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Will Geneva Be Any Different Than Helsinki?

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Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Any meeting between the leaders of Russia and the U.S. is inevitably an important international event. At some point in history, such summits decided the fate of the entire world, and the world held its collective breath as it followed Kremlin-White House talks on strategic arms or the two sides seeking agreements on urgent regional problems or any political signals coming from the superpower capitals prior to another round of negotiations.

The bipolar era has long been gone, and the Russia-U.S. relations are no longer the principal axis of international politics, although the suspense over bilateral summits remains. As before, the two countries are engaged in “top-down” interaction. Summits give the initial impetus to Moscow and Washington’s cumbersome bureaucratic machines, then diplomats, military personnel and officials start their assiduous work on specific issues, collaboration between the two countries’ private sectors and civil society perks up, the media gradually soften their rhetoric, bilateral projects in culture, education and science are gradually resumed.

Still, there are annoying exceptions to this general rule. In particular, the latest full-fledged Russia–U.S. summit in Helsinki in July 2018 failed to trigger improvements in bilateral relations. On the contrary, Donald Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Finland’s capital aroused massive resentment among the anti-Russian Washington establishment. Ultimately, on returning home, the U.S. President had to offer awkward apologies to his supporters and opponents alike, and relations between the two countries continued to rapidly deteriorate after the summit.

Surely, nobody is willing to see another Helsinki scenario in June 2021, this time in Geneva. Yet, do we have good reason to hope for a different outcome this time? To answer this question, let us compare Donald Trump and Joseph Biden’s approaches to Russia-U.S. summits and to bilateral relations at large.

First of all, in Helsinki, Trump very much wanted the Russian leader to like him. The Republican President avoided publicly criticizing his Russian counterpart and was quite generous with his compliments to him, which inevitably caused not only annoyance but pure outrage in Washington and in Trump’s own Administration. Joe Biden has known Vladimir Putin for many years; he does not set himself the task of getting the Russian leader to like him. As far as one can tell, the two politicians do not have any special liking for each other, with this more than reserved attitude unlikely to change following their meeting in Geneva.

Additionally, in Helsinki, Trump wanted, as was his wont, to score an impressive foreign policy victory of his own. He believed he was quite capable of doing better than Barack Obama with his “reset” and of somehow “hitting it off” with Putin, thereby transforming Russia if not into a U.S. ally, then at least into its strategic partner. Apparently, Biden has no such plans. The new American President clearly sees that Moscow-Washington relations will remain those of rivalry in the near future and will involve direct confrontation in some instances. The Kremlin and the White House have widely diverging ideas about today’s world: about what is legitimate and what is illegitimate, what is fair and what is unfair, where the world is heading and what the impending world order should be like. So, we are not talking about a transition from strategic confrontation to strategic partnership, we are talking about a possible reduction in the risks and costs of this necessarily costly and lengthy confrontation.

Finally, Trump simply had much more time to prepare for the Helsinki summit than Biden has had to prepare for Geneva. Trump travelled to Finland eighteen months after coming to power. Biden is planning to meet with Putin in less than five months since his inauguration. Preparations for the Geneva summit have to be made in haste, so the expectations concerning the impending summit’s outcome are less.

These differences between Biden and Trump suggest that there is no reason to expect a particularly successful summit. Even so, we should not forget the entire spectrum of other special features of the Biden Administration’s current style of foreign policy. They allow us to be cautiously optimistic about the June summit.

First, Donald Trump never put too much store by arms control, since he arrogantly believed the U.S. capable of winning any race with either Moscow or Beijing. So, his presidential tenure saw nearly total destruction of this crucial dimension of the bilateral relations, with all its attendant negative consequences for other aspects of Russia-U.S. interaction and for global strategic stability.

In contrast, Biden remains a staunch supporter of arms control, as he has already confirmed by his decision to prolong the bilateral New START. There are grounds for hoping that Geneva will see the two leaders to at least start discussing a new agenda in this area, including militarization of outer space, cyberspace, hypersonic weapons, prompt global strike potential, lethal autonomous weapons etc. The dialogue on arms control beyond the New START does not promise any quick solutions, as it will be difficult for both parties. Yet, the sooner it starts, the better it is going to be for both countries and for the international community as a whole.

Second, Trump never liked multilateral formats, believing them to be unproductive. Apparently, he sincerely believed that he could single-handedly resolve any burning international problems, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to North Korea’s nuclear missile programme.

Biden does not seem to harbor such illusions. He has repeatedly emphasized the importance of multilateralism, and he clearly understands that collaboration with Russia is necessary on many regional conflicts and crises. Consequently, Geneva talks may see the two leaders engage in a dialogue on Afghanistan, on the Iranian nuclear deal, on North Korea, or even on Syria. It is not at all obvious that Biden will succeed in reaching agreement with Putin immediately on all or any of these issues, but the very possibility of them discussed at the summit should be welcomed.

Third, Trump was not particularly fond of career diplomats and, apparently, attached little value to the diplomatic dimension of foreign policy. The Russia-U.S. “embassy war” had started before Trump—but not only did Trump fail to stop it, he boosted it to an unprecedented scale and urgency.

Sadly, the “embassy war” continues after Trump, too. Yet President Biden, with his tremendous foreign policy experience, understands diplomatic work better and appreciates it. Practical results of the Geneva summit could include a restoration of the diplomatic missions in Washington and Moscow to their full-fledged status and a rebuilding of the networks of consular offices, which have been completely destroyed in recent years. Amid the problems of big politics, consular services may not seem crucial but, for most ordinary Russians and Americans, regaining the opportunity for recourse to rapid and efficient consular services would outweigh many other potential achievements of the Geneva summit.

From our partner RIAC

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“Choose sides” is practically a bogus idea for US military partners

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“Choosing sides” is practically a non-starter for US military allies such as Japan and South Korea. These nations, first and foremost military allies of the US, are forging cordial and productive ties with other countries based on military alliances with the US. The nature and level of partnerships varies greatly from those of allies, despite the fact that they appear to be quite heated at times.

Military concerns have been less important in the postwar period, but economic concerns have been extremely heated, social and cultural interactions have been close, and the qualitative differences between cooperative relations and allies have gotten confused, or have been covered and neglected.

Some unreasonable expectations and even mistakes were made. In general, in the game between the rising power and the hegemony, it is undesirable for the rising power to take the initiative and urge the hegemony’s supporters to select a side. Doing so will merely reinforce these countries’ preference for hegemony.

Not only that, but a developing country must contend with not only a dominant hegemony, but also a system of allies governed by the hegemony. In the event of a relative reduction in the power of the hegemony, the strength of the entire alliance system may be reinforced by removing restraints on allies, boosting allies’ capabilities, and allowing allies’ passion and initiative to shine.

Similarly, the allies of the hegemonic power are likely to be quite eager to improve their own strength and exert greater strength for the alliance, without necessarily responding to, much alone being pushed by, the leader. The “opening of a new chapter in the Korean-US partnership” was a key component of the joint statement issued by South Korea and the United States following the meeting of Moon Jae-in and Biden. What “new chapter” may a military alliance have in a situation of non-war?

There are at least three features that can be drawn from the series of encounters between South Korea and the United States during Moon Jae-visit in’s to the United States: First, the withdrawal of the “Korea-US Missile Guide” will place military constraints on South Korea’s missile development and serve as a deterrence to surrounding nations. The second point is that, in addition to the Korean Peninsula, military cooperation between the US and South Korea should be expanded to the regional level in order to respond to regional hotspots. The third point is that, in addition to military alliances, certain elements in vaccinations, chips, 5G, and even 6G are required. These types of coalitions will help to enhance economic cooperation.

Despite the fact that Vice President Harris wiped her hands after shaking hands with Moon Jae-in, and Biden called Moon Jae-in “Prime Minister” and other rude behaviors, the so-called “flaws” are not hidden, South Korea still believes that the visit’s results have exceeded expectations, and that Moon Jae-in’s approval rate will rise significantly as a result.

The joint statement issued by South Korea and the United States addresses delicate subjects such as the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. Of course, China expresses its outrage. It is widely assumed that this is a “private cargo” delivered by Biden’s invitation to Moon Jae-in to visit the United States.

Moon Jae-in stated that he was not pressured by Biden. If this is correct, one option is that such specific concerns will not be handled at all at the summit level; second, South Korea is truly worried about the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea concerns and wishes to speak with the US jointly.

South Korea should be cognizant of China’s sensitivity to the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea concerns. When it comes to China-related concerns, the phrasing in the ROK-US joint statement is far more mild than that in the ROK-Japan joint declaration. Nonetheless, the harm done to South Korea-China ties cannot be overlooked.

South Korea highlights the “openness” and “inclusiveness” of the four-party security dialogue system, which allows South Korea to engage to some extent. South Korea will assess the net gain between the “gain” on the US side and the “loss” on the Chinese side. China would strongly protest and fiercely respond to any country’s measures to intervene in China’s domestic affairs and restrict China’s rise.

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