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Movement of the White House towards radicalism

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The removal of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson from power and the replacement of CIA chief Mike Pompeo will create new crises at the White House. In the domestic circles of the United States, Tillerson was considered one of the few symbols of political rationality in the Trump cabinet. However, Pompeo has always been a symbol of extremism in the political and security structures of the United States.

Consequently, the domestic circles of America believe that Tramps has thrown Tillerson out of power, radicalism and extremism in his government. Accordingly, Tramp will henceforth be more costly in the international system and foreign policy of his country.

The U.S. president has ousted the Foreign Minister while Washington and Pyongyang have not yet begun talks on the disagreements. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is scheduled to make a final decision on a nuclear deal with Iran in about two months. In such a situation, the U.S. Secretary of State is about to create new crises in the White House.

Although the American political structure (especially in the field of foreign policy) has little connection with the presence of people in power, the presence of Pompeo as a symbol of extremism at the top of U.S. foreign policy equations represents a more serious confrontation between Trump’s government and the international community.

Pompeo’s presence at the head of the U.S. foreign policy equation has raised a lot of concerns among Washington’s allies, especially the European ones. One of the issues in which Pompeo and Trump are shared is to confront the existence and nature of the European Union.

Pompeo, as the head of the CIA, has played a significant role in supporting extremist right-wing and nationalist groups in Europe over the last year. In some of his positions, Donald Trump has explicitly supported phenomena such as election and called for the modeling of other European countries. Europe’s return to nationalism is a major policy that Tramp and Pompeo have followed and are pursuing in the last year (especially in 2017). Obviously, this process will intensify during Pompeo’s presence at the U.S. Department of State.

As Guardian reported, Rex Tillerson will go down as one of the worst secretaries of state in U.S. history. And yet, with his departure and replacement by CIA director Mike Pompeo, things could get a whole lot worse for U.S. national security.

Donald Trump made clear his disdain for diplomacy from day one of his presidency, and that he views foreign policy as an endeavor for the military, not the state department. He proposed enormous increases in the military budget while attempting to slash the state department budget by roughly a third. Trump appointed generals to be secretary of defense, national security advisor (twice) and White House chief of staff, while appointing as secretary of state someone with no diplomatic experience.

If Trump’s contempt for diplomacy somehow wasn’t clear, he did his best to actively undermine his secretary of state, criticizing him in public on a number of occassions. In the fall of 2017, as Tillerson attempted to open a diplomatic process with North Korea, Trump tweeted to the world, “I told Rex Tillerson … he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.” When a Middle East dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar broke out in 2017, as Tillerson scrambled to calm the situation and mediate, Trump undercut him by publicly siding with Saudi Arabia.

So it should come as no surprise that Tillerson would find out he was fired when his boss tweeted the news to the world.Despite this poor treatment, it is hard to shed a tear for Tillerson. He has been a good soldier in enabling a military-first foreign policy, in which the state department is relegated to an afterthought.

He has worked aggressively to gut the state department, not filling key positions, and implementing freezes on hiring, all of which have contributed to a hostile environment and low morale. The nation’s most senior diplomats have resigned over the last year, leading to a wave of exits of career diplomats at all levels that has depleted the ranks of the nation’s diplomatic corps. It will take years to rebuild the state department in the wake of the damage inflicted by Trump and Tillerson.
Guardian continues that On leading America’s diplomacy with the world and running the state department, Tillerson has been an utter disaster – but his policy views were about as moderate as they come inside the Trump administration. He has been one of the administration’s strongest voices for diplomacy with North Korea.
He was reportedly an advocate of remaining in the Paris climate change agreement. And he supposedly tried to keep the U.S. in the Iran nuclear deal.If and when Pompeo replaces him, we should be deeply concerned – both because of Pompeo’s more hawkish views, and where they might take America on the critical foreign policy decisions coming down the pike.

The fate of the Iran deal is once again hanging in the balance, and with it potentially more conflict in the Middle East. Trump has set a 12 May deadline for getting European allies on board with changes to the Iran deal, and has reportedly said that he will exit the deal if those changes aren’t made.While Tillerson advocated remaining in the deal, Pompeo has been a vocal critic of the 2015 agreement.

If the U.S. unilaterally withdraws from the deal, there’s no telling where tensions with Iran – which is already fighting proxy wars in Syria and Yemen – could go.This development doesn’t bode well for diplomacy with North Korea, either. As Trump prepares for a possible summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Tillerson’s exit could signal a much harder line on talks.

Whereas Tillerson has been a proponent of diplomacy with North Korea, Pompeo’s public language on North Korea has been more aggressive, and he has openly hinted at regime change. A negotiation with North Korea is one of the most difficult diplomatic endeavors one can imagine – and Pompeo, like Tillerson, has no diplomatic experience.

And then there’s Russia. Tillerson has hardly been tough on Russia, prioritizing attempts at cooperation over pushing back against clearly destabilizing actions by Russia, including its interference in the 2016 election. While Pompeo held critical views of Russia during his time in Congress and has admitted that Russia interfered in the election, it’s unclear for which policies Pompeo will advocate.

To those ends, there are reasons for concern: at Trump’s request, Pompeo met with a conspiracy theorist peddling the falsehood that the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s emails in 2016 was an inside job, not Russian hacking. He also falsely claimed that the CIA concluded that Russian meddling did not affect the election’s outcome. As war rages in Syria and Ukraine, and Russia continues interfering in U.S. politics, Pompeo will be a key player in leading U.S. policy on all.

At the end of the day, the president directs foreign policy, and no change in personnel will alter the unique chaos of Trump’s foreign policy. But if past is prologue, Pompeo appears much more willing than Tillerson to toe Trump’s line – a very dangerous prospect.This development may prove that no matter how bad things look, in Donald Trump’s administration, they can always get worse.

First published in our partner Tehran Times

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The 4 groups of Senate Republicans that will decide Trump’s impeachment trial

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With Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pushing back the Trump impeachment trial to mid-February to make sure things cool down, Senate Republicans’ positions on the vote are far from crystallized yet. Here are the four groups of Senate Republicans, according to views and likely vote. The numbers and composition of these four groups will decide Trump’s future political faith. Which group Mitch McConnell chooses to position himself in will also be a deciding factor in the unusual and curious impeachment trial of a former US president no longer sitting in office.

Group 1: The Willing Executioners

There surely are those in the Republican Party such as Senator Mitt Romney and Senator Ben Sasse who cannot wait to give that Yea and the final boot to disgraced former President Trump, and will do that with joy and relief. Both the Utah Senator and the Nebraska Senator may be vying for the leadership spot in the Republican Party themselves but that is not the whole story. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska openly said “I want him out.” This group is unlikely to reach as many as 17 Senators, however, needed for the two thirds Senate majority to convict Trump.

Group 2: The Never Give up on Trumpers

There are also those Republican Senators who will stick with Trump through thick and thin until the end – some out of conviction, but most as someone who cannot afford to alienate the Trump supporter base in their state – a supporter base which is still as strong. 

At least 21 Republican Senators are strongly opposed to voting to convict former President Trump, as reported by Newsweek. They realize that doing so would be a political suicide. Republican voters, on the whole, are unified in their belief that the presidential elections were not fair and Joe Biden did not win legitimately, with 68% of Republican voters holding the belief that the elections were “rigged”. The majority of the Republican Party constituents are Never Give up on Trumpers themselves.

Among them are Senators Cruz and Hawley. Both will fight at all cost a vote which certifies as incitement to violence and insurrection the same rhetoric they both themselves used to incite the Trump crowd. Cruz and Hawley will try to avoid at all cost the legal certification of the same rhetoric as criminal in order to avoid their own removal under the 14th Amendment, as argued already by Senator Manchin and many others.

Senator Ron Johnson even called upon Biden and Pelosi to choose between the Trump impeachment trial and the Biden new cabinet confirmation. Group 2 will fight fierce over the next weeks and you will recognize them by the public rhetoric.

Group 3: I’d really like to but I can’t be on the record for convincing a President of my own party

Then there is a large group of Republican Senators – maybe the largest – who would really like to give that Yea vote and leave Trump behind but they do not wish to go on the record as having voted to convict a US President from their own party. Some of these Senators will share their intention to vote Yea in private or off the record with the media, but when push comes to shove and the final vote, they will be hesitant and in the end will vote Nay. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida falls under Group 3.

Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania is also the illustration of the average Republican Senator right now – someone who said that Trump committed “impeachable offenses” but who is not sure about convicting him through trial, so that probably means a Nay. 

The BBC quoted a New York Time’s estimate from mid-January that as many as 20 Republican Senators are open to voting to convict Trump, but it should be recalled that in the first Trump impeachment trial in 2020, several Republican Senators also shared in private and off the record that they would be willing to convict. After so much discussion, calculations and prognosis, in the end, it was only Senator Mitt Romney who broke ranks on only one of the two impeachment articles, and voted to convict.

The Capitol events, of course, are incomparable to the Ukraine impeachment saga, but it should be accounted for that the trial vote will likely take place sometime in March 2021, or two months after the Capitol events, when most of the tension and high emotion would have subsided and much of American society will be oriented towards “moving forward”. Group 3 will host the majority of Senate Republicans who in the end will decide to let it go. Most of the 21 Republican Senators who already expressed their opposition to convicting Trump actually belong to Group 3 and not Group 2 Never Give up on Trumpers.

Group 4: I am a Never Give up on Trumper but I really want to look like Group 3

And finally, there is the most interesting group of Republican Senators who are secretly a Never Give up on Trumpers but would like to be perceived as belonging to the hesitant and deliberative Group 3 – willing and outraged but unwilling to go all the way on the record to eliminate a former Republican President.

Senator Ted Cruz might move into Group 4 in terms of rhetoric. Never Give up on Trumpers will vote Nay willingly but will try to present themselves as conflicted Group 3 politicians doing it for different reasons.

Which group Mitch McConnel chooses will be the decisive factor in aligning the Senate Republican votes. McConnel himself seems to be a Group 3 Senator who, in the end, is unlikely to rally the rest of the Senators to convict Trump even though McConnel would really like Trump out of the Republican Party, once and for all. The very fact that McConnel is not in a hurry and is in fact extending the cool-off period places him in Group 3. 

Yea voters don’t need time to think about it and look at things. It took House Democrats exactly three days to get it over and done with. McConnel is quoted as willing to give time to “both sides to properly prepare”, allowing former president Trump enjoy due process. But Trump’s legal team will notice quickly that there is not much to prepare for, as they won’t find plenty of legal precedent in the jurisprudence on American Presidents’ incitement to violent insurrection for stopping the democratic certification process on an opponent who is the democratically elected President.

McConnel himself has said that he is “undecided” and that speaks volumes. He is a Group 3 Senate Republican, and with that, Group 3 will describe the mainstream Senate Republicans’ position in the impeachment trial. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set 8 February as the start of the impeachment trial, pushing earlier McConnel’s time frame. This is when it all starts.

It is my prediction that when all is said and done, there won’t be as many as 17 Senate Republicans to vote to convict former President Trump. Trump will walk away, but not without the political damage he has incurred himself and has also left in American political life.

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Two Ways that Trump Spread Covid-19 in U.S.

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Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour

1. Encouraging infected workers to continue working even if it infects others:

On 12 May 2020, two hundred and twenty five labor organizations signed a letter to Antonin Scalia’s son Eugene Scalia who was Donald Trump’s appointed Secretary of Labor, and it urged his Department to change its policies “that address the standards that apply under the federal U[nemployment] I[insurance] law to determine when workers remain eligible for regular state UI or P[andemic] U[nemployment] A[ssistance] if they leave work or refuse to work due to COVID-19 health and safety concerns.” In more-common language, an economist Jared Bernstein headlined in the Washington Post six days later on May 18th, “The Labor Department is forcing workers back to jobs that could make them sick” and he explained that Scalia’s Department “has issued guidance that virtually ignores health risks and encourages employers to report workers who refuse job offers [while unemployed] so their unemployment payments can be taken away. The agency is busy urging employers to snitch on ‘claimants that have turned down suitable work.’” Trump’s Labor Department ignored the labor-organizations’ letter. Then, a barista headlined at Huffpost on 22 January 2021, “I Work In A Coffee Shop In Montana. Anti-Maskers Have Made My Job Hell.” She complained that the many customers who refused to wear masks were causing her to fear working there — she was blaming those customers, but not Trump. However, Trump and his Labor Secretary were responsible and simply didn’t care about the safety of workers, such as her, and were instead encouraging employers to force these workers to stay on the job, though doing so endangered themselves and their co-workers. Millions of infected workers were infecting others because not to would cause them to become fired and could ultimately force them into homelessness. Maybe the billionaires who funded Trump’s political career profited from such exploitation of their employees, but nationally this policy helped to increase the spreading of Covid-19. Also: since so many of those bottom-of-the-totem-pole employees are Blacks and Hispanics, etc., this Trump policy helped to cause the drastically higher infection-rates that have been reported among such groups.

2. Refusing to deal with the pandemic on a national basis:

On 15 July 2020, the Washington Post headlined “As the coronavirus crisis spins out of control, Trump issues directives — but still no clear plan” and reported that, “health professionals have urged the White House to offer a disciplined and unified national message to help people who are fatigued more than five months into the crisis and resistant to changing social behaviors, such as wearing masks and keeping a distance from others. Trump, for instance, refused to be seen publicly wearing a mask until last weekend, when he sported one during a trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. ‘You can get a really strong and eloquent governor who can help at the state level, but it does seem like we need some more national messaging around the fact that for many people, this is the most adversity they’ve faced in their life,’ said Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.” Every country (such as China, Vietnam, Venezuela, South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand, and Finland) that has been far more successful than America is at having a low number of Covid-19 cases (and deaths) per million residents has dealt with the pandemic on a national and not merely local basis, but all of the worst-performing countries (such as America, which now is at 76,407 “Tot Cases/1M pop”) have not.

It therefore also stands to reason that 

which ranks all 50 states according to how high is the number of Covid-19 infections per million inhabitants, shows (and links to the data proving) that “In 2016, the top 17 [most Covid-infected states] voted for Trump, and the bottom 5 voted for Clinton. All but 3 of the top 24 voted for Trump.” The correlation of high Covid-infection-rate with Trump-voting was astoundingly high. Trump, it seems, gave the high-infection-rate states what they had wanted. But what he gave to America is the highest Covid-19 infection-rate of any nation that has at least 11 million population. It is the 7th-highest Covid-19 infection-rate among all 219 reporting nations. Trump’s policies produced the type of results that had been expected by well-informed people around the world.

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A Most Unusual Inaugural

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President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden enter the inauguration platform during the 59th Presidential Inauguration ceremony in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took the oath of office on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. (DOD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos M. Vazquez II)

Sic transit gloria mundi — thus passes worldly glory, which seems an apt phrase for the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next.

Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. became the 46th president of the United States at noon on January 20th, and earlier  Donald J. Trump departed the White House quietly for Florida — his last ride on Air Force One as president — leaving behind a generous and gracious letter for Biden.  So it is described by Joe Biden himself.  Trump did not attend the inauguration, the first president not to do so since Woodrow Wilson in 1921, who remained inside the Capitol building because of poor health while his successor Warren G. Harding was installed.

It was a most unusual inauguration this time.  There were no crowds on the lawns outside; instead row upon row of American flags representing them.  The official attendees all wore masks and included three former Presidents (Obama, the younger Bush and Clinton).  President Carter, who is in his 90s and frail, sent his apologies. 

The usual late breakfast before the ceremony and the lunch afterwards were also cancelled — one cannot eat with a mask in place!  No evening inaugural balls either.  These were sometimes so many that the new president and his lady could only spend a few minutes at each.  In their stead, there was a virtual inaugural celebration hosted by Tom Hanks the actor.  It consisted mostly of pop-singers who supported Biden plus a disappointing rendering of Amazing Grace by Yo-Yo Ma on his cello. 

Biden’s first act was to sign a series of executive orders to undo some of Trump’s policies.  He announced the U.S. would not leave the World Health Organization (WHO) and would continue to contribute to it.  On climate change a complete policy reversal now means the U.S. will abide by the Paris climate accord.   

Biden’s other executive orders totalling 15 responded to the coronavirus crisis with the goal of giving 100 million vaccine shots by the end of April.  He proposes to establish vaccine centers at stadiums and community facilities and also plans to speed up production of the supplies required for making vaccines.

The U.S. now has lost 406,000 lives (and counting) from COVID-19.  That number is noted to be greater than U.S. deaths during WW2.  The virus has so far infected 24.5 million people.  However, the problem is more complicated than simply inoculating everyone.

Swedish authorities report that 23 people, mostly elderly and having other health issues, have died after being given the Pfizer vaccine.  Its side effects apparently can be severe and mimic the disease itself.  Thus given a choice, one would prefer the Moderna vaccine.  

Old age is a poignant sight to behold.  Biden the ex high school football star now having difficulty lifting his feet to walk.  Very gamely, he even tried a jog or two to say a quick hello to bystanders during his short walk to the White House.  We wish him well and hope for a successful presidential term.  Thirty-six years as senator and eight years as vice-president certainly make him one of the most experienced to sit in the White House Oval Office.   Good luck Mr. President!  

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