After being diagnosed with COVID-19 and hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center, President Trump has, much to the relief of the U.S. public and our allies, returned to the White House.
But even as the president resumes his duties full-time as head of state and campaigns vigorously for a second term, U.S. national security officials must remain on the watch, tracking and deterring ruthless adversaries seeking to turn the president’s illness to their advantage.
I learned first-hand at CIA the importance of collecting intelligence on foreign leaders when my colleagues and I charted the health of the late Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who spent months in the hospital after undergoing quintuple heart bypass surgery in 1996.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s recent months-long absence from public view also presented a significant challenge to outside analysts, given Pyongyang’s opaque and tightly-regimented society.
Our enemies — and even our allies — consider the president of the United States their highest priority information collection target. Foreign governments scour open-source media reporting and the president’s own tweets and videos for clues about his health. They also engage in full-throttled espionage to fill knowledge gaps.
We should expect our adversaries in particular ruthlessly to focus on questions such as when the president last tested negative for coronavirus; the side effects of any medication he is taking; and any contingency and continuity-of-government planning being done as Mr. Trump recovers.
Foreign governments use this information not just to inform their bilateral engagement with the U.S., but also to probe for any exploitable weakness or distraction in the conduct of American foreign policy.
Russia and China would never miss such an opportunity to weaponize this element of the COVID-19 narrative, with an eye to disparaging our political process. Democracy, for leaders like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, is an existential threat. While they impose Orwellian Big Brother control over their own populations, both China and Russia can use their state-controlled media to portray the U.S. as politically unstable and unable to counter the most devastating impacts of the coronavirus.
Russia is the most sophisticated practitioner of information operations designed to shape public opinion. Mr. Putin deploys a range of platforms, starting with the Kremlin’s propaganda arm RT, formerly known as Russia Today, which the Trump administration ordered to register formally as a foreign agent in 2017.
Having outsourced social media influence operations to the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency, Mr. Putin also mounts “discoverable” influence operations that barely bother to hide the Kremlin’s controlling hand. Seasoned in the art of intelligence from his KGB training, Mr. Putin has used cyberspace as a propaganda accelerant designed to inflame already red-hot partisan debates here.
Given that our upcoming election is already in the Kremlin’s crosshairs, the U.S. should manage the aftermath of President Trump’s bout with COVID-19 with three courses of action:
First, the intelligence community must step up its relentless collection of indications and warnings of threats to U.S. national security in key flash points around the world, including, but not limited, to North Korea, Taiwan and Iraq. Those are the most likely places where our adversaries might test the readiness and effectiveness of the U.S. ability to defend its security interests.
Second, especially in light of outbreak of cases and quarantining at the highest levels of both the Pentagon and White House, U.S. officials need a consistent message to reassure our citizens and our allies and deter our enemies. In addition to public pronouncements, we should expect Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his dedicated team of diplomats to deliver behind-the-scenes warnings to adversaries that the U.S. remains as committed as ever to defend our national security interests. Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, rightly emphasized that any adversary who sees Mr. Trump’s illness “as an opportunity to test the United States would be making a grave mistake.”
Third, the Trump administration should be as transparent as possible about the president’s illness and recuperation to avoid creating vulnerable attack space for foreign adversaries to sow confusion. Noting the “significant increase in conspiracy theories and outrageous claims” since the president’s diagnosis, Mr. Rubio sagely argued for “frequent, detailed, and transparent” updates from the White House while remaining “skeptical of outlandish rumors.”
• Daniel N. Hoffman is a retired clandestine services officer and former chief of station with the Central Intelligence Agency. His combined 30 years of government service included high-level overseas and domestic positions at the CIA. He has been a Fox News contributor since May 2018. Follow him on Twitter @DanielHoffmanDC.
Between a rocky presidential election, an ongoing global pandemic and protests about police violence, it can seem tough to be an American right now. But there is a reason for hope: A new survey of millennials and Gen-Zers reveal great optimism about the American dream. It also highlights the top challenges facing the generations — namely, preserving the environment and access to affordable health care and education.
The survey, conducted by Echelon Insights and commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation, asked 2,002 members of Gen Z (ages 13-23) and 2,002 millennials (ages 24-39) a broad range of questions “seeking to explore attitudes about opportunity, the American Dream, and key issues such as education, the environment and their communities.”
Among the topline insights, 67% of respondents believe that they “have the opportunity to achieve the American dream.” When asked what “the American dream” means, the answer was often “opportunity.” One respondent explained: “I don’t think I envision the American Dream in the stereotypical light of ‘white picket fence, four-person family, financial success’ type of way, I think I view it more as America serving as an opportunity for people to better their lives, in a society where people are equal and all have the same access to resources.” Freedom, financial well-being, family and career success ranked as the top four indicators of achieving the dream.
Opportunity still exists, and, despite living through several economic downturns, young people haven’t given up on it. Gen Zers and millennials are optimistic that they’ll achieve a better life than their parents. Fifty-six percent of Gen Z and 44% of millennial respondents believed they will do better than their folks, although the results were slightly less optimistic for their generation as a whole.
Interestingly, Black, Hispanic and Asian respondents were the most optimistic responding to this question at 59%, 57% and 54%, respectively. This, in the face of ongoing political battles over racial equality, shows that young minorities maintain strong faith in American opportunity.
Of course, when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, 62% report that the recent changes in society have made it harder to succeed in life. However, 66% also believe that it will not “permanently change how my generation lives.” Stephen, 25, explains: “COVID-19 has caused people in my generation to modify their path towards their goals and may have hindered some in the short term, but I don’t think it will ultimately determine if they are successful or not.”
That’s not to say the survey was all roses. The unaffordable costs of higher education and lack of access to health care stand out as issues weighing on the minds of young Americans. Around 40% of respondents called both an “extremely or very big problem.” Many young people felt unprepared for dealing with the challenges of adulthood, with 37% reporting concern about “not having been taught important life skills” and “not having the right connections.”
The poor state of America’s public education system may be to blame. Allen, 34, explained: “A millennial stereotype I hear a lot is that we were babied in our childhood and went into adult life mostly unprepared. While I feel this is mostly untrue, I would say that having gone through the traditional education process, the education system did not properly prepare us for the work force.”
The environment is also a key concern, with 86% of respondents ranking it as “extremely or very important” to “breathe fresh air and drink clean water.” More respondents believed that food and water they eat and drink will be better in their lifetime. However, they were not as optimistic about the quality of air, rivers, oceans and the Earth’s climate.
For the young, even the unrest that has rattled our nation is seen as a chance for positive growth — a point of optimism that younger Americans will lead the way on political change and expanding opportunity. Ryan, 34, explains: “I think the protests and the issues that are being discussed will help our generation and provide more opportunity to the future generations. It is forcing people to talk about and work toward change that will benefit us all.”
Politicians should be paying attention and taking notes. To court young voters, they should understand what matters to us. As it turns out, most young people want the same things as past generations: the opportunity to make an honest living and the freedom to create their own life. However, challenges to health care, education and the environment persist, and those must be adequately addressed.
Even so, it’s good to hear that the common smears painting Gen Zers and millennials as radical or entitled are untrue. In fact, our faith in the American Dream is still alive and well. We just want it to be even better than it has ever been.
• Casey Given is the executive director of Young Voices.
Right about this time in 2016, candidate Donald J. Trump said, “I don’t believe the polls anymore,” when nearly every national poll had Hillary Clinton with a significant lead over Mr. Trump. The polls in that election were dead wrong.
The president has standing to make the case that history is repeating itself, because polls were wrong in key swing states back in 2016. Those polls were a major factor in leading our nation’s thought leaders on both the right and left to declare Mr. Trump politically dead in the water. The polls we see today are similar to the polls we saw in 2016. Polling has proven to be an inexact science and the polling numbers we see today don’t seem to reflect reality.
The election results and polls from 2016 are a case study in failure. Defenders of those polls argue that national polls ended up being close to correct on election day, yet we all know the national popular vote totals are irrelevant to the final count of the Electoral College. What the defenders will gloss over are the polls that led Americans to believe that Mr. Trump was doomed to failure.
The 2016 polls in swing states were way off. The site Five Thirty Eight projected that Hillary Clinton had a 71.4% chance of an Electoral College victory. The site projected big leads in Florida (2%), Wisconsin (5%), Michigan (4%) and Pennsylvania (4%). The New York Times projected an 85% chance of a Clinton presidency. Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball projected Clinton would win 322 electoral votes. No pollster projected a Trump victory, because of faulty poll data in the critical states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. It is possible that we are in a comparable situation right now with similar polling deficits for President Trump in these swing states.
Every four years, the media obsesses over every poll the moment they are released. In too many cases we find out on election day that the polls we believed for months were wildly wrong. Americans seem to have a collective case of amnesia, because we all continue to obsess over polls every four years and tend to believe them. There are other measures of the strength or weakness of a candidacy that helps Americans to see if a candidate has a fighting chance including a growing election prediction markets.
Polls can be volatile much like the voting public. Back in January of this year, many thought Mr. Trump was a lock for a second term because of the economy and the fact that he created 7 million new jobs with record-low unemployment numbers for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans and women. Even then, the polls had Mr. Trump down nationally by about 4%, but he was close enough in swing states that people had already factored in a Democrat bias in the weight of the polls. Many believed that the polls did not reflect the actual state of play as evidenced by betting markets having Mr. Trump either tied or favored to win.
Many have found alternatives to polls that help to predict the strength of a candidate’s chances that weigh polls as a factor, yet not the ultimate determiner of who is going to win. One thing we learned from 2016 is that pollsters missed Trump voters but the prediction markets seem to have baked them in. There is some evidence that Trump voters may be under-polled again this election. Mr. Trump has been pulling record breaking rally attendance dwarfing the numbers seen at Biden rallies.
While the premier sites like Five Thirty Eight give the president a 13 out of 100 chance of winning this fall, the prediction site PredictIt it has had Mr. Trump hovering at about 40 cents on the dollar with Polymarket giving Trump a .38 chance of winning with about a half million shares traded on that market. There is a big disconnect between the political predictors and the prediction markets.
The people putting money into the market versus political pundits who don’t gives the prediction markets a bit more credibility. The betting markets provide a way for a person to factor in the power of incumbency, the history of different states, polling data, the candidate’s political skills and breaking news when placing money on the outcome of an election.
The American people need to seek alternatives when assessing the candidates rather than relying on pollsters to tell us who is going to win. They have been wrong too many times.
• Brian Darling is former senior communications director for Sen. Rand Paul.
Twitter’s top dog, Jack Dorsey, responded to the massive swell of outrage that came when his company blocked the New York Post and the White House’s Kayleigh McEnany over a Hunter Biden report that put Joe Biden in a bad light with a tweet that acknowledged poor messaging.
No d’oh. That’s called a lame attempt to sideline criticisms.
The thing is Twitter always blocks people without explaining why; conservatives have long ago learned that conservative viewpoints are not acceptable to liberal-leaning tech giants and that blocking — censorship — is part of the posting game.
In other words: The locking of the Post’s account and McEnany’s feed for sharing that Hunter Biden was allegedly asked by a Ukrainian executive to “use his influence” with his then-vice president father was hardly surprising.
It did, however, generate huge outrage, with Republicans in Congress taking to Twitter to retweet the same Biden story — a la daring Twitter to lock their accounts, as well.
Dorsey was forced to acknowledge wrongdoing.
“Our communication,” Dorsey wrote on Twitter, “around our actions on the @nypost article was not great. And blocking URL sharing via tweet or DM with zero context as to why we’re blocking: unacceptable.”
Now who’s going to get fired?
“We want to provide much needed clarity around the actions we’ve taken with respect to two NY Post articles that were first tweeted this morning,” Twitter Safety wrote.
“The images contained in the articles include personal and private information — like email addresses and phone numbers — which violate our rules,” Twitter Safety wrote.
“As noted this morning, we also currently view materials included in the articles as violations of our Hacked Materials Policy,” Twitter Safety wrote.
“The policy, established in 2018, prohibits the use of our service to distribute content obtained without authorization. We don’t want to incentivize hacking by allowing Twitter to be used as distribution for possibly illegally obtained materials,” Twitter Safety wrote.
“We know we have more work to do to provide clarity in our product when we enforce our rules in this matter. We should provide additional clarity and context when preventing the tweeting or Doing of URLs that violate our policies,” Twitter Safety wrote.
Lame. Lame and ridiculous.
Everybody knows Twitter is a far-left leaning outfit where censorship of conservatives is part of the work culture.
The only difference this time is the backlash was great — great enough that Dorsey had to make a public statement.
But he didn’t apologize. He didn’t announce a change in policy.
He simply vowed to “provide clarity” — meaning: The censorship of conservatives will continue.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.
Prince George’s County parents and politicians say they want six new public schools either built from the ground up or substantially modernized.
There has been no rabid public outcry among Prince Georgians concerning the potential to raise taxes and fees and/or create new taxes. But there is measurable agreement about the need to begin erasing the county’s $8.5 billion backlog in modernizing schoolhouses, most of which are 45 to 55 years old.
Well, the Prince George’s County Council disagrees, and somebody, ahem, should set them straight.
On Tuesday, the 11-member council unanimously rejected a proposal to build the new schools via a public-private partnership.
Essentially, the plan would cost $1.24 billion to build five middle schools and a K-8 school in three years — projects that usually take five or six years per school. Prince Georgians would cover $29.8 million in initial investment costs, while the private-sector partners would be repaid with interest.
Over the course of the 30-year contract, the contractors would be responsible for maintenance and repairs at the six schools — responsibilities often dictated by unions and their collective bargaining agreements.
Know that county leaders have been pondering upgrading public school facilities for two years, with two thumbs-up from parents, teachers and other stakeholders.
Moreover, public-private partnerships are hardly novel. Donald Trump helped build two public ice rinks in New York City. NFL, soccer, basketball, baseball and hockey teams lean on public-private deals, with municipalities usually footing the bill for infrastructure projects such as water, public transit and right of way.
Prince Georgians know as much. After all, the county is home to the former Washington Redskins and, statewide, Marylanders helped pay for the twin stadiums in Baltimore for the Ravens and the Orioles.
You also could say that the University of Maryland is a 19th-century product of public-private partnerships: The College Park campus began on land owned by George Benedict Calvert, who used slaves for agricultural innovations before founding the Maryland Agricultural College on his land. That site is now the flagship of the University of Maryland System, where County Executive Angela Alsobrooks attended law school.
And public-private educational programs are rooted in school segregation. Yet another wealthy American businessman, Julius Rosenwald (think Sears department stores), used his philanthropy to help fund the construction of more than 5,000 schools and teachers’ houses for mostly Black and poor folks south of the Mason-Dixon Line and westward through the Bible Belt. The first, opened in 1913 in rural Alabama, was managed by educator and civil rights advocate Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee University.
Rosenwald granted seed money to the schools, and residents raised additional money and donated the blood, sweat and tears to build the schools and homes. Rosenwald worked with local leaders on the partnership.
Several Rosenwald Schools were built in Prince George’s County and other parts of Maryland, and one of them stands today as a museum-school administration site.
With such a rich history, why in the world are Prince George’s lawmakers barely lukewarm on the proposal? Two reasons: One is rising costs to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Understood.
Reason No. 2 is the Democratic Party. Marylanders love Democrats almost as much as they love the Chesapeake Bay’s blue crabs, and the Dems have their socialist claws gripped on some lawmakers. You know, down with government privatization, down with government outsourcing, and Big Government today, Big Government tomorrow, Big Government forever.
Before the Board of Education votes next week, supporters of the public-private option must appeal to Prince Georgians, the very people who elected them, and explain that even amid these times of fiscal uncertainty building safe, secure, 21st century schoolhouses is a must — and not just for Black and brown children.
They need to shake the Democrats’ herd mentality, get ahead of the anti-privatization curve and lobby on behalf of the future of Prince George’s and its children.
What are the Big Government anti-partnership folks afraid of? Oh, that’s right.
School Board Chairman Alvin Thornton should remind them.
• Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]
Whoever said patience is a virtue should also have mentioned that patience is a close relative of procrastination. The United States fought and won World War II in three months shy of four years. It has been three months longer than four years since rogue Obama administration officials initiated an unwarranted attempt to derail Donald Trump’s presidency, and still no justice has been meted out. Sadly, Americans are going to the polls in a new presidential election without a full accounting of mischief committed during the previous one. There is little virtue in that.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr has told Republican lawmakers, Axios reports, that the results of a nearly two-year investigation conducted by U.S. Attorney John Durham into the origins of the bogus “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation of alleged Trump-Russia collusion will not wrap up anytime soon: no expose like the 448-page Mueller Report that cleared the Trump campaign of wrongdoing, and no indictments of those involved. The president and the public had been led to believe results would be forthcoming before Labor Day. Now they’ve been informed to expect nothing before Election Day.
The news doesn’t sit well with Mr. Trump, who responded that he was “very disappointed.” The president has spent every day of his four years in office with a cloud of doubt hanging over his legitimacy. Just as disturbing, he has been forced to campaign for re-election while wondering if the perps may walk, and then come right around for a second try at deposing him. Such may comprise the bitter fruit of public office in a banana republic, but better should be expected in the United States.
The president has authorized the declassification of all documents related to the Trump-Russia investigation, and their flow into the public spotlight has revealed that suspicions of nefarious schemes on the part of the Trump team was wishful thinking at best and at worst, a concoction by partisans backing Mr. Trump’s 2016 Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The release last week of an FBI spreadsheet analyzing the anti-Trump dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele revealed futile efforts to prove that Republican candidate Mr. Trump, not bureau assets themselves, was engaged in election subterfuge. Americans have already learned that many of the dossier’s sordid accusations were sourced to a suspected Russian spy. Now peering at the paperwork from the FBI’s failed attempts to verify the charges, the public can see it was the agents of “Crossfire Hurricane” who were engaged in roguery.
Mr. Durham may fear charging anti-Trumpers with crimes so close to an election would be viewed as an effort to boost the president’s re-election bid. Were he to slow-walk release of his findings, though, he would effectively be aiding Democratic contender Joe Biden by suppressing the president’s vindication. Lady Justice may be blind, but she should not sit on her hands and play dumb.
Why won’t Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden answer the simple question about whether he is in favor or opposed to packing the Supreme Court?
His team believes he shouldn’t answer the question because it would open up the remainder of the slightly crazed, poorly thought-out wish list from the left to more scrutiny than it can bear currently. Statehood for Puerto Rico? Yep. A $4 trillion tax increase? Absolutely.
Getting rid of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, on public lands and fossil fuels in general? Yes and yes. A $90 trillion Green New Deal that would make California’s electricity system and forest management look like success stories? Heck, yeah.
Open borders? Yes. A public “option” for health care? As soon as the opportunity presents itself. Letting Iran up off the canvas? Yes.
The problem is that once you start answering questions, it becomes very difficult to stop. The media has a bottomless appetite.
What the Biden crew fails to understand is that it doesn’t matter whether they answer the question about packing the Supreme Court or not, beyond saying he isn’t “a fan” of the strategy. Their opponent has an irresistible urge to make everything about himself. Even if Mr. Biden cops to wanting to expand the Supreme Court to 13 or 301 justices, no one would be able to make much of it because President Trump would no doubt pick that moment to talk, tweet or otherwise step on the story.
In short, Mr. Biden can say and has said pretty much say whatever he wants with impunity because Mr. Trump will always find a way to make the narrative about himself.
That is an advantage for Mr. Biden at the moment. Unfortunately, in the event that Mr. Biden should win, Mr. Trump would no longer be quite as visible (more on that later) and would be incapable of hijacking the entire narrative.
Without the distraction provided by Mr. Trump, a President Biden would be compelled to face the media and public on his own. All of his failings — emotional, mental, physical and ideological — would become grist for the media mill. Moreover, he would have to expose his own beliefs in unpopular ideas — such as packing the Supreme Court or raising taxes in a recession.
We are seeing some of that now in the media’s insistence that he answer their questions. They are trying to let him know that his free pass from them is about to expire.
By running a campaign that has steadfastly been about nothing, and focused almost entirely on saying nothing, Mr. Biden has set himself up for more or less immediate failure if he is elected president.
So, in a larger sense, it doesn’t matter if he answers the questions about packing the Supreme Court, or statehood, or open borders, or showing love to Iran, or whatever. He eventually would have to eventually answer all of those questions. If he gets around to those answers only after he takes office, he would own all of it and bear all the burden of condemnation from whichever side he disappoints, without any sort of cover from Mr. Trump’s verbal tic of talking all the time.
It would be a rude awakening for him.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.
The Senate confirmation hearing of Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court has made certain things quite clear. One, our country would be in a much better position if people with the values, love of country and the constitution Judge Barrett exemplifies were reflective of those serving in the Senate. And two, somehow an august body like the United States Senate has become peopled with the worst of us.
The grotesque scandal of the confirmation hearing for Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh is forever seared into the memory of the American people. Individuals such as Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono made fools of themselves in a specific effort to destroy an innocent man simply because they could and because they thought there would be political bennies.
Alas, the American people didn’t much like the insanity of that display, and said so in the 2018 midterm elections by expanding Republican control of the Senate. That message was even more distinct considering the Democrats gained control of the House. After watching that fiasco, the voters decided they couldn’t trust the Democrats with a sharp object like the Senate.
While the Judge Barrett hearing is not at all like the car wreck the Democrats arranged with Justice Kavanaugh, they still can’t resist making fools of themselves.
At Judge Barrett’s 2017 confirmation hearing for the Court of Appeals, Ms. Feinstein uttered the now infamous “The dogma lives loudly within you,” as a condemnation of Judge Barrett’s Catholic faith meant to raise suspicions about her intentions and character.
While the Democrats were dancing on the head of a pin this time around because of the backlash to the questioning of Judge Barrett’s faith, Ms. Feinstein, in a generally confused interrogatory about abortion and gun control, still did her best to get the nominee to issue her personal opinions. Judge Barrett refused to take the bait.
“Barrett repeated to senators that she had no political agenda, and frequently cited her current role as a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals when asked about her views on specific issues. ‘If I give off-the-cuff answers, then I would basically be a legal pundit,’ the 48-year-old nominee said [responding to Ms. Feinstein]. ‘I don’t think we want judges to be legal pundits. I think we want judges to approach cases thoughtfully with an open mind,’” reported Politico about the exchange.
Ms. Feinstein’s response? “Okay, let me try something else …” revealing the agenda as not to assess the character of the nominee, but to trip her up or to embarrass her. During their exchange, I half expected Ms. Feinstein to challenge Judge Barrett to pull her finger.
In the meantime, we await Ms. Feinstein’s apology to the judge for her 2017 attempted smear of her faith.
Then there is Mazie Hirono of Hawaii who, during the Kavanaugh hearings, declared he did not deserve the presumption of innocence. What sort of lawmaker makes that argument when someone is facing, in a dramatically public hearing, allegations that are wildly absurd and meant to destroy that person’s life?
Ms. Hirono, that’s who, along with too many of her Democratic colleagues.
Not content with embarrassing herself in that gruesome episode of Senate history, Ms. Hirono sat across from Judge Barrett and asked, “Since you became a legal adult, have you ever made unwanted requests for sexual favors, or committed any physical or verbal harassment or assault of a sexual nature?” Fox News reported.
“No” was Judge Barrett’s answer, of course. And yet there she sat, with her family behind her including her seven children, being asked by a U.S. senator if she was a rapist. Ms. Hirono explains she asks every nominee those questions in order to “catch” them in the future if they lie, according to Heavy.com.
Weaponizing violence against women to weave a dystopian narrative throughout society that all Americans are potential rapists, is craven and grotesque. It was with Justice Kavanaugh and it is with Judge Barrett.
Further highlighting the kangaroo court environment surrounding this inquisition of a remarkable and accomplished woman, was the firestorm that erupted when Judge Barrett committed the crime of uttering the words “sexual preference” instead of “sexual orientation” when responding to a question about LGBT issues.
Ms. Hirono swooped in and libsplained the word crime by saying the phrase was outdated and offensive. Judge Barrett apologized, noting, “I certainly didn’t mean and would never mean to use a term that would cause any offense to the LGBTQ community. So, if I did, I greatly apologize for that. …” Perhaps we should all keep a list stuck to our fridge with the currently approved adjectives for the Democrats’ Balkanized base. It would have to be written in pencil, of course.
Here’s a newsflash from this gay woman about my sexual preference: It is a preference. Others may choose to call it their orientation. But for the crowd insisting there are 57 genders and you are whatever you imagine, to suddenly be the adjective police is the height of arrogance with a splash of Stalin thrown in.
The good news on display during these hearings is America is still producing people like Amy Coney Barrett. The attacks on Justice Kavanaugh were meant to derail his nomination but a corollary agenda was to also frighten other good Americans from being willing to participate in our government. It’s people like Judge Barrett they were hoping to scare away. Thankfully, her love for this country and our Constitution eclipses any fear the jerks and bullies in the United States Senate had hoped to instill.
• Tammy Bruce, president of Independent Women’s Voice, author and Fox News contributor, is a radio talk-show host.
A hallmark of the Trump administration has been the removal of U.S. military forces from foreign wars where the nation has no serious strategic interest, and has made remaining forces from Afghanistan a key focus.
Unfortunately, the president’s recent statement that he will bring home some 8,600 U.S. troops still in Afghanistan and accomplish this objective by year’s end appears to be in conflict with some military leaders who are unable to deal with either the political or military reality of the situation, and their own bias built on two decades of failed policy.
The U.S. has been in Afghanistan close to 20 years, making it the longest war in U.S. history, having claimed more than 2,300 American lives, all in an effort to defeat the Taliban — a hardline Islamist movement that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 and still controls much of the country.
At the outset, the Taliban, who then controlled Afghanistan, refused to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden — responsible for the 9/11 attack — leading then-President George W. Bush to launch a military operation against bin Laden and remove the Taliban from power.
Continued U.S. presence in the Afghanistan conflict still consumes some $38 billion of taxpayer dollars annually, as well as the lives of service men, women and contractors. Not counted here is more than $40 billion the U.S. spends annually in reconstruction funds, much of which the inspector general finds has been stolen or used for nefarious purposes.
Increasingly, the national security community is willing to admit that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan serves no significant strategic interest for the nation. Since the outset of the U.S. presence in 2001, the military and their associates in the national security community have provided false narratives, misleading statistics and failed arguments as to why a continued U.S. presence is needed.
In terms of global geopolitics, Afghanistan is simply of no consequence. Since the Soviet Union ended its own ill-fated effort to govern that nation in 1978-79 it makes no real difference who governs that nation. One myth is that the current Afghan regime governs the country at all. Beyond Kabul, they prevail over a small part of that nation, and the Taliban controls most of the rest.
In recent years, the Taliban’s power and reach soared, even with U.S. troops remaining on the ground with the claimed and limited mission of “stabilizing” the country. By most any metric this has been a failure. A second myth is that U.S. military advisers are critical to the training and arming of Afghan security forces. In reality, every year a third of this force defects and take their weapons with them.
Central to the reluctance of senior military to depart Afghanistan “abruptly” as they argue, comes from the fact that many of them have personally served there over the years. Indeed, the war has covered virtually their entire military careers — and are reluctant to face the reality that this has been a largely useless enterprise. Contrary to their views, they are not “defending democracy” or promoting any strategic U.S. interest. The Taliban do not threaten the U.S. or any regional ally, and have no ability to project force beyond Afghanistan.
Apart from the issue of U.S. military forces, other key factors are largely ignored. Some 75% of the entire Afghan economy depends on the illegal drug trade and less than 20% of the population can read. The vast majority of the Afghan people have little use for any central government and apart from the Taliban. These numbers have not changed in decades and are unlikely to even if the U.S. remained there for another 20 years.
A major accomplishment of the Trump administration, which has received far too little press attention, has been the negotiations with the Taliban officials that led to a realistic “framework” of a peace deal accomplished largely by U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who by any account is one of the best possible people for this task.
Central to the agreed-upon framework is that the Taliban will prevent Afghan territory from being used by groups such as al Qaeda to stage terrorist attacks which would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals. Stopping future terrorist attacks is a key strategic interest of the U.S., and a major objective of the Trump foreign policy.
Clearly, there is a risk that the Taliban might just be negotiating for a U.S. troop withdrawal, and then overrunning Kabul and killing off its opposition. In several way,s this parallels the situation faced by President Nixon in the final withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam in 1975. This was also a lengthy war that Nixon had “inherited” from prior administrations and served no U.S. strategic interest.
Realization by Nixon and Henry Kissinger, his national security adviser, that this war was not “winnable” and that the government of South Vietnam would finally need to fend for itself led to difficult negotiations with North Vietnam and a final decision on the removal of all U.S. forces. At the time many in the military, who had all served in Vietnam, as well as supporters in Congress argued for a continued U.S. military presence.
Most disturbing now is an apparent lack of communication and support of the president’s clear position by senior military and even the national security adviser. In a recent radio interview on NPR, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley seemed unaware of what the president has stated, and it is unclear that he has presented the commander in chief with a plan to meet these specific objectives on the timing for removal of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Possibly, this is just a short-term failure in high-level communication. It may also be the case that some senior military are watching the election clock count down and think that they can slow roll President Trump until he may become a “lame duck” and will fare better convincing an incoming Biden–Harris administration of an alternative plan.
This is not what the nation needs. The military pulled this stunt with respect to the Vietnam pullout and chaos ensued. Gen. Milley and his staff owe this president an effective plan to meet his time pullout objectives so we do not repeat such a disgraceful episode in history.
• Abraham Wagner has served in several national security positions, including the NSC staff under Presidents Nixon and Ford. He is the author of the recent book “Henry Kissinger: Pragmatic Statesman in Hostile Times.”
As true as it may seem trite — given a constant refrain — this is “the most important presidential election in our lifetime.” This is particularly the case in the realm of foreign policy. President Trump’s foreign policy is a sharp and distinct departure from the staid and failed approaches of past administrations, most notably that of President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Now Mr. Biden is seeking to take the helm of the ship of state. If and when he does, he will steer us recklessly toward the rocky, deadly shoals of failure. Mr. Biden is not a stranger to foreign policy issues. In fact, he has been remarkably accurate in choosing exactly the wrong course to take in many foreign policy decisions. A Biden foreign policy will be characterized by misunderstanding, miscalculation, missteps and malpractice. Consider the evidence.
In 1975 our first glimpse of Mr. Biden’s lack of acumen in foreign policy was on full display. In Donald Rumsfeld’s insightful biography of President Ford, the former secretary of Defense relates Mr. Biden’s opposition to support for the Vietnamese boat people. That year, they were desperately trying to escape the torment and revenge of the North Vietnamese on those who had sided with the U.S. during the Vietnam War.
Ford asked Congress for financial assistance to help evacuate desperate South Vietnamese attempting to escape death and resettle in the U.S. Mr. Biden opposed that assistance. What ensued was an embarrassing and disorganized hasty evacuation of U.S. and Vietnamese citizens from Saigon to U.S. naval vessels offshore. It was a shameless spectacle that could have been avoided.
Unfortunately, Mr. Biden and other senators misunderstood the importance of standing by allies. And in a disgusting follow-up when Ford enlisted Christian organizations to offer assistance on a voluntary basis, Mr. Biden made light of those efforts.
Another insight into Mr. Biden’s miscalculation can be found in his prescription for Iraq when he was running for president in 2007 while that country was desperately contending with an insurgency that threatened its national survival. The Biden plan was to partition Iraq into three countries, one of Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims and the Kurds, that nation’s prominent populations.
In fact, Mr. Biden’s prescription would achieve precisely what terrorist fighting in Iraq were seeking to do. Had a President Biden implemented such a plan — one he said he would have pressed Iraq to accept — Iran would have had a newly-created state within former Iraqi territory from which to foment unhampered terror operations.
This would have been a huge miscalculation amounting to foreign policy malpractice. And more recently, Mr. Biden opposed President Trump’s decision to eliminate Iran’s Gen. Qasem Soleimani, a diabolical terrorist responsible for the deaths of more than 600 American soldiers. Just imagine, a Soleimani operating freely, alive and well within a safe haven carved out by Joe Biden’s irresponsible partition scheme.
Mr. Biden didn’t become president then, but did wind up serving as vice president when the Obama administration formulated a misguided, unenforceable, unverifiable and irresponsible Iran nuclear deal. Under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran would not be prevented from proliferation over time, but rather be asked to observe a pause in their nuclear plans.
No thinking person should expect Iran to honor an unverifiable nuclear agreement any more than an open-ended pact to cease their hegemonic activities in the Middle East, including directly funding terror organizations. And in a final indignity, the Obama-Biden administration even resorted to delivering millions of dollars on pallets under the cover of darkness to seal the deal with Iran.
Finally, in May 2019 Mr. Biden’s stunning naivete was center stage concerning China’s rising threat to U.S. national interests. Indeed, Mr. Biden was dismissive of the threat saying, “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man!” He went on to characterize our competition with China remarking, “They’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what, they’re not competition for us.” Really? Of Mr. Biden’s misunderstanding of China, Democrat Socialist Bernie Sanders said, “It’s wrong to pretend that China isn’t one of our major economic competitors.” Mr. Biden is ripe to miscalculate when it comes to competition with China, something even Mr. Sanders grasps.
The next few years — indeed the months ahead — may witness significant challenges to U.S. national interest and to those of our allies. Chief among them is the looming threat from Communist China that saw what the Obama-Biden foreign policy team did in their tepid response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea. China has moved to destroy freedom in Hong Kong and will eventually do so to Taiwan, the last vestige of a free Chinese people. Acts of terror are also sure to occur. What will Joe Biden’s response look like? If past is prologue, it will resemble misunderstanding, miscalculation, missteps and malpractice.
• L. Scott Lingamfelter, a retired U.S. Army colonel, combat veteran and former member of the Virginia House of Delegates (2002-18), is the author most recently of “Desert Redleg: Artillery Warfare in the First Gulf War.”