The media’s latest knock on President Trump is that he lacks compassion and empathy. The caricature is especially timely during the pandemic and has been pushed by his niece Mary Trump.
Mary Trump barely knows the president, but her largely fictional account in her book portrays Mr. Trump as an ogre.
In contrast to Mary Trump, Norma Foerderer spent almost every day with the mogul for 26 years as his vice president and top aide. No one knew so well both the personal and business side of Donald Trump.
In the only in-depth interview she ever gave, Foerderer, who has since died, told me there are two Donald Trumps: One is the Trump who appears to the public, making often outrageous comments on television to get attention; the other is the real Trump only insiders know.
“I mean Donald can be totally outrageous, but outrageous in a wonderful way that gets him coverage,” Foerderer told me. “That persona sells his licensed products and his condominiums. You know Donald’s never been shy, and justifiably so, in talking about how wonderful his buildings or his golf clubs are.”
The private Trump, on the other hand, is “the dearest, most thoughtful, most loyal, most caring man,” Foerderer said. That caring side inspires loyalty and is one of the secrets to his success.
When Foerderer began having a problem with her eyes and had to stay at home, Mr. Trump called her every week and sent her baskets of gourmet food. After she died in 2013, Mr. Trump tweeted, “I have just lost my beautiful & elegant long time exec. assistant Norma Foerderer. She passed away yesterday — a truly magnificent woman.”
Mr. Trump attended her funeral in West Orange, New Jersey.
Tony Senecal, Mr. Trump’s longtime butler at Mar-a-Lago, told me for my book “The Trump White House” that despite occasional tirades, he loved working for Mr. Trump.
Some years ago, when Mr. Senecal’s home air-conditioning system gave out, Mr. Trump had it replaced. When Mr. Senecal paid his own way to attend Mr. Trump’s father’s funeral in New York in June 1999, Mr. Trump was so touched he ordered his pilot to fly the butler back to Palm Beach — a passenger of one — at a cost of $40,000 for fuel and maintenance.
When Mr. Senecal needed surgery to implant a stent, Mr. Trump called him and asked, “So when do you go under the knife?”
“Tomorrow,” said Mr. Senecal.
“Well, if you don’t make it, don’t worry about it. You’ve had a good life,” Mr. Trump said. And then he said, “Listen, I don’t want you going back to your place. You come and recuperate at Mar-a-Lago.”
Mr. Trump routinely hands out $100 bills to janitors and chambermaids and writes checks for tens of thousands of dollars to people he has learned are in distress. But one of the White House media staff’s frustrations has been that Mr. Trump does not want the public to see this side of him and know what he is like behind the scenes. His tough guy image is a key to his success and masks the real Donald Trump.
In the same way, Ronald Reagan quietly wrote personal checks to people who had written him with hard-luck stories.
“Reagan was famous for firing up Air Force jets on behalf of children who needed transport for kidney operations,” says Frank J. Kelly, who drafted Reagan’s presidential messages. “These are things you never knew about. He never bragged about it. I hand-carried checks for $4,000 or $5,000 to people who had written him. He would say, ‘Don’t tell people. I was poor myself.’”
Mr. Trump is the opposite of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who is so nasty to her Secret Service agents that being assigned to her detail is considered a form of punishment.
At the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach just before New Year’s Eve, Trump friend and Mar-a-Lago member Gary J. Giulietti, who as president of Lockton Cos. is a consultant to Mr. Trump on insurance issues, noticed that Mr. Trump invited his Secret Service agents and the agents guarding his family members to help themselves to the spectacular Sunday evening buffet.
Besides prime New York strip steaks grilled to order, they feasted on lobster Newburg, freshly shucked oysters on the half shell, huge cocktail shrimp, stone crab claws, sushi, braised scallops, deep fried soft shell crabs, seafood paella, rack of lamb, prime rib, pork roast, cakes and pies, and make-your-own hot fudge sundaes with choice of dark chocolate or milk chocolate sauce.
When I asked Mr. Trump in an interview for the book at Mar-a-Lago about the $100 tips that he hands out, he punted.
“What tips?” he said. “For who? Where?” he asked. When I pressed him, he finally acknowledged, “I just like taking care of people. I love those people. I take care of the people. They take care of me, I take care of them.”
• Ronald Kessler, a former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, is the New York Times bestselling author of “The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game.”
Earlier this month, President Trump publicly called for the extradition of former British MI6 Intelligence Officer Christopher Steele, author of the infamous and now thoroughly debunked opposition research “dossier” on then-candidate Trump in 2016.
The president was reacting to a British court ruling that Mr. Steele had violated a data privacy law by failing to vet the information he included in his report for the Hillary Clinton campaign on the Trump campaign’s supposed Russia connections.
Mr. Steele, a former MI6 agent now running a private intelligence firm, was ordered to pay damages to Alfa Bank owners Mikhail Fridman and Peter Aven over “inaccurate or misleading” material in the dossier, including false claims the bank owners funneled “illicit cash” to Russian President Vladimir Putin during the early 1990s, when Mr. Putin was deputy mayor of St. Petersburg.
Presiding Judge Mark Warby admonished Mr. Steele that “this allegation clearly called for closer attention, a more enquiring approach and more energetic checking.”
Mr. Steele’s dossier made a number of other sensational but inaccurate claims, including that Mr. Fridman and Mr. Aven provided Mr. Putin with foreign policy guidance; that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen traveled to Prague to conspire with Russian hackers; and that Russian intelligence possessed a salacious blackmail tape of Mr. Trump himself.
It gets worse.
Last week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham released declassified FBI documents — including the FBI’s interview of Mr. Steele’s primary source — which cast further doubts on the veracity of the dossier. Mr. Steele’s informant admitted to the FBI that he had been in contact with Russia’s FSB. According to the Department of Justice inspector general’s report, the FBI learned in 2017 that Russian intelligence was using Mr. Steele as an unwitting conduit for disinformation.
Having reportedly served as an intelligence officer in Moscow in the early 1990s and as chief of the Russia desk at MI6 headquarters before retiring in 2009, Mr. Steele should have known better. A counterintelligence specialist, Mr. Steele was the case officer for Russian FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, a defector whom the Kremlin had poisoned in London with Polonium-210.
Despite his service in MI6, Mr. Steele seemed inexplicably clueless to the ways of Russia’s powerful intelligence services — and to the sophisticated tradecraft required to collect intelligence in their midst.
Mr. Steele testified in a London court in March that he had not lived in Russia for 27 years. He confirmed that he acquired all of the sources he used in his dossier after he retired from government service and that he had not visited Russia in over a decade.
According to the FBI documents made public by Mr. Graham, Mr. Steele used email, Skype and phones in dealing with his sources, all woefully insecure communications channels which the FSB would have easily penetrated.
The dossier was not Mr. Steele’s first significant post-MI6 error in judgment. He also worked for a time for Russian oligarch and Putin confidante Oleg Deripaska. In 2018, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Mr. Deripaska over his suspected links to organized crime.
By producing the fodder which would pit Democrats against Republicans, Mr. Steele unwittingly was doing the bidding of Mr. Putin, a former KGB agent himself. Mr. Steele’s dossier magnified Mr. Putin’s influence operations, designed to soil our democratic processes. Mr. Steele’s conduct was extraordinarily egregious, but the FBI also should have known better than ever to rely on his dossier in its Crossfire Hurricane Investigation.
Mr. Steele reportedly revealed the identities of the sources used in the dossier to the FBI. He had been a paid confidential source for the FBI before preparing the dossier, and the FBI judged Mr. Steele’s information to be valuable enough that it warranted more compensation. Mr. Steele reportedly received payments from the FBI between 2014 and 2016.
And then there are the U.S. politicians and senior officials who allowed their own deep biases to cloud their assessment of Mr. Steele’s “findings.”
I’m a retired intelligence officer and not a lawyer, so I’ll leave it to the legal professionals to comment on President Trump’s extradition demand to force Mr. Steele to face American justice.
But I will invoke a former CIA mentor who, after I had not performed as well as I should have during a clandestine operation early in my career, observed that we are all human and make mistakes. The mentor quickly added that only those who admit their mistakes, learn from them and correct course are worthy of being trusted going forward.
Mr. Steele would best serve his own interests — and the national security of both the U.K. and U.S. — with a mea culpa admitting his errors of judgment and laying out the multitude of lessons we should learn from his shoddy work product.
With the 2020 presidential election in Mr. Putin’s crosshairs, there is precious little time left for Mr. Steele to ease his guilty conscious, repair his tattered reputation, and help us better prepare to counter Russia’s pernicious and multifarious plans.
• 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.
Has the possibility that, come election night on Nov. 3, the results might not be immediate?
That the predictions made by The Associated Press CNN, Fox, MSNBC and your local stations are too close to call?
Consider those and other possibilities because, although the Donald Trump-Joe Biden foot race is the headliner, your take on down-ticket races will help guide America for at least the next four years as well from Washington.
Who is chosen to be Mr. Biden’s running mate is reportedly set to be unveiled next, and the clues to her identity are as seemingly guarded as the contestants’ on the weekly TV show “The Masked Singer.” And like the show, Mr. Biden’s clues are helpful but not dead giveaways.
On the Biden-veep ticket will be a woman and an African American. Here again, though, like contestants on “The Masked Singer,” some of the contenders are surprising victors (the Trump-Pence 2016 ticket) and some are losers because their “costumed” performance doesn’t appeal to the masses.
That’s essentially what’s being played out in Atlanta as voters prepare for the down-ticket races for the House of Representatives, where all 435 seats are up for election, including the one held by longtime Democrat John Lewis, the late civil rights giant whose remains now rest in Atlanta’s Reconstruction Era South-View Cemetery.
One of the races Democrats will surely win is Lewis’ 5th Congressional District seat, where Georgia Democratic Party leaders already have elected Nikema Williams to replace him.
She has described Lewis as a “personal hero, friend, and mentor,” and she described herself as a “student of the John Lewis School of Politics.”
Ms. Williams, who faced 130 Dems in the intraparty nomination process, stepped down as chair of the Georgia Democratic Party to put herself in the running for Lewis’ seat. And come November her likely Republican opponent will be Angela Stanton-King, a native of Cheverly, Maryland; an author; TV personality; and — get this — goddaughter of conservative evangelist Alveda King, Martin Luther King’s niece.
However, while name recognition can add significant weight when running for office, she won’t likely outrun her heavier baggage.
Ms. Stanton-King was sentenced to prison for her part in a car-theft ring, and she served two years in prison. Last winter, President Trump pardoned her — something indigestible to some Black voters.
This past March, Ms. Stanton-King said she would run as a Republican for Congress, and while there was no guarantee that Lewis’ seat would be available this fall, at least one thing is predictable: “Hotlanta” is not going to elect a Republican, Trump-supporting, pro-life, ex-felon to Lewis’ seat.
Even if she’s an African American. Indeed, according to Joe Biden’s definition, Ms. Stanton-King isn’t even Black.
Nikema Williams does, though, fit Mr. Biden’s billing as a “good” Black. She worked for Planned Parenthood, was the first African American woman to chair the party, the third woman to chair and the second Black to chair the party. She also was a delegate to both Obama-Biden Democratic National Conventions, was at the convention in 2016.
In short, her Democratic bona fides are rock solid.
She’s the kind of party woman House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants on the team regardless of Mr. Biden’s selection for vice president.
Mrs. Pelosi doesn’t so much mind voters electing their personal brand of Democrats. But voting for Republicans? That’s where she draws the electoral red line.
And in 2020, make that a double red line because Mrs. Pelosi knows that after four years of Mr. Trump and two years of the roughshod Squad, she and her Democrats need all the dependable House hands they can muster.
• Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]
Florida’s got a problem with face masks — and it’s one that is terrorizing citizens, sending them to jail, stripping them of their most basic civil, human rights. For face masks. For failing or refusing to wear face masks.
Has America gone mad?
Has America actually turned this corner, where Black Lives Matter-aligned protesters-slash-thugs can, say, sling Molotov cocktails or bricks, destroy historical monuments and police stations, break into and loot private businesses with abandon — but it’s the face mask rebel who gets the jail time?
In Key West, “if you step out of your front door without a mask, you will be punished with 60 days of jail,” wrote Florida Rep. Anthony Sabatini on his Twitter page. “The mayor has become a radical dictator and is acting with NO legal authority.”
So Sabatini, who also happens to be an attorney, did what attorneys do: He sued.
He filed a suit against Key West, “the city with the MOST severe mask ordinance in the country,” he tweeted.
And he’s filed, along with his legal partners, a total of 13 lawsuits in Florida in recent months, all over radical face mask crackdowns, all on behalf of terrorized citizens.
“There’s no money in this,” he said in a telephone interview.
But there is a Constitution at stake. There is freedom at stake. Florida’s far-left politicos have been busily using the coronavirus as the gestapo boot that keeps on stamping, and they must be fought. For the sake of the state and nation — they have to be stopped.
“BREAKING,” Sabatini tweeted just this week. “Florida’s most corrupt county — @browardinfo — had my plaintiff arrested by local police because ONE person inside his gym was not wearing a mask.”
In a separate tweet, Sabatini wrote that his client, Mike Carnevale, was “targeted and arrested because we filed a lawsuit against Broward County challenging their mask ordinance two days ago.”
What’s the deal with Broward?
“Broward County order says masks must be worn inside homes,” the Sun-Sentinel wrote, in a headline.
From the blog The Prepared: “In Broward County, FL, house guests must mask up.”
And another from the Sun-Sentinel, from July 17: “Broward County now under nightly curfew to battle coronavirus.”
Good Lord, people. Is this what America has become? Democrats shrug off the tyranny as a necessary evil to protect citizens from the spread of the coronavirus.
“We are in such a downward spiral,” said Broward County Manager Bertha Henry to the Sun-Sentinel on COVID-19 numbers. “Miami-Dade cases are up around 3,000 a day.”
But let’s remember: These numbers are meaningless. It’s the case count versus recovery count that matters. If COVID-19 as a deadly virus is the justification for shutting down the country, closing schools, closing churches, closing people up in their homes, and ordering face masks for those who dare step outside — then it’s the percentage of fatalities that counts, and the truthful reporting of recoveries that matters even more.
Just blasting out numbers of positive coronavirus tests is not only meaningless — it’s harmful. It gives the fear-driven a voice to cry wolf; it gives the left a tool to take control and clamp individual freedoms.
This is what’s happening in Florida.
Of course, coronavirus positives are rising in the state. Florida’s a big state with a lot of people; as testing becomes more frequent, it’s only common sense more could test positive. But how many die versus recover? That’s the significant figure because it tells the real danger of the virus — and in turn, tells citizens and politicians how to act, how to protect, going forward.
“Testing has skyrocketed in Florida, increasing from about 30,000 a day during the second week of June to 60,000 a day two weeks ago, to almost 100,000 tests a day this past week,” Florida Atlantic University’s News Desk reported July 20.
Add to that the widely reported curiosities of some Florida jurisdictions’ ridiculously high positive test counts — 100 percent in some instances — and it’s clear: The numbers aren’t to be trusted.
“Questions remain over labs reporting 100% positive cases,” WCJB reported a couple weeks ago, in a story on 450 Florida labs and their 100% positivity rates of the coronavirus.
And back in May, it was this, reported by NBC Miami: “35,000 Coronavirus Tests ‘Unreliable’: Florida Healthcare System.”
Yet the clamps on individual freedoms continue.
Yet the face mask police are in full force, patrolling the streets of Florida for offenders. To fine. To jail. To terrorize.
“Miami to fine people up to $500 if they don’t wear masks,” CBS reported.
“Cops enforce mask laws with fines and arrests in South Florida,” the Sun Sentinel reported.
Stop. Take a moment and look around. Yes, the coronavirus is real. Yes, some people have died from the virus. But far more have recovered. Far more have died, in fact, from other viruses, from the flu, even, in other seasons, at other times — in other political climates — and America didn’t close. Police weren’t tasked to hound and imprison citizens over face masks.
Politicians didn’t run roughshod over individual rights.
If we don’t wake up and smell the tyranny — and the fake numbers, and the false figures, and the faulty reporting, and the factually challenged science — it won’t just be the Sunshine State that goes dark. It’ll be America. All of America’s freedoms will fall — to a politically hyped virus, of all things.
• 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.
President Ronald Reagan once said, “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Riots and chaos in the streets of many American cities today are a reminder of how fragile our freedom is — and what is at stake for the future.
During his final address, our 40th president acknowledged that the resurgence of national pride seen during his tenure might not last unless it’s grounded in thoughtfulness and knowledge. In light of the nonsense going on in many parts of America today, it is worth repeating his warning from the Oval Office.
“An informed patriotism is what we want. And are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? Those of us who are over 35 or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions.
“If you didn’t get these things from your family you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea or the family who lost someone at Anzio. Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture. The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that America was special. TV was like that, too, through the mid-sixties.
“But now, we’re about to enter the nineties, and some things have changed. Younger parents aren’t sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style. Our spirit is back, but we haven’t reinstitutionalized it. We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection.
“So, we’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important — why the Pilgrims came here, who Jimmy Doolittle was, and what those 30 seconds over Tokyo meant. You know, 4 years ago on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, I read a letter from a young woman writing to her late father, who’d fought on Omaha Beach. Her name was Lisa Zanatta Henn, and she said, ‘we will always remember, we will never forget what the boys of Normandy did.’ Well, let’s help her keep her word.
“If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I’m warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit. Let’s start with some basics: more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual.
“And let me offer lesson number one about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven’t been teaching you what it means to be an American, let ‘em know and nail ‘em on it. That would be a very American thing to do.”
Unfortunately, it appears, many have fallen short of his charge. Seemingly, each day brings a new story of vandals destroying monuments of leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and even Frederick Douglass.
The ignorance exhibited by many involved with the riots shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the great leaders of our country. Were our founders perfect? No, far from it. The only perfect person I know of hasn’t walked on this planet in more than 2,000 years.
Our Founders did, however, create a country based on a remarkable idea that all people are created equal. And they set up a system to enable America to continue to grow to a more perfect version of that idea. It opened the door for the 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th Amendments that extended the full rights of citizenship to everyone in our country.
Are there things we can do to continue to improve opportunities for all Americans? Yes. Which is precisely why we must learn our history — to avoid prior mistakes and to embrace past successes.
Despite our challenges, the United States of America is still the most exceptional country in the world. That’s why more than a million people come here each year. It is why no other nation is even close to the number of foreign-born citizens we have in the U.S.A. People all over the world want what we have, and that’s freedom. We must fight to keep it for ourselves and future generations.
• Scott Walker was the 45th governor of Wisconsin. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him @ScottWalker.
Seapower is a full-time proposition. That’s why the U.S. Constitution mandates that Congress shall provide and maintain a Navy.
Seapower is competitive. There are winners and losers. Controlling the sea is central to preserving global security and liberal democratic values. Peacetime competition is as important as warfighting at sea. Navies that during peacetime keep up with technology, innovate the way they fight, and keep up and maintain numbers of ships, aircraft, equipment and people are far more likely to win.
Americans hate losers, so the fact that we are losing the seapower competition to China should mean something to the man on the street. We have fought great sea control campaigns against peer competitors. Those campaigns rested on the proposition that the United States and our allies were going to control seas around the globe, deny the oceans to our enemies and exploit that control.
On the basis of this rationale, the U.S. Navy and our allies emerged from World War II having not just defeated, but destroyed, the German and Japanese navies. The totality of that victory had never been seen before in any war, and is a gauge of the seapower stakes prevailing today.
The American naval strategy was to envision the fundamental value of seapower; to muster the political will and the industrial resources necessary to defeat opposing navies; and to ruthlessly exploit control of those seas to bring the war to the enemy. The strategy depended upon a broad public understanding of the value of American seapower, an adroit political willingness to use it and a supremely professional Navy that could not only wield the fleet built for it, but in so doing invent entirely new operational approaches to naval warfare.
American industry and technological prowess were indispensable, but even more important was the human element, personified by the great commanders no more than by the sailors, seaman, airmen and Marines who were the lifeblood of the greatest fleet ever launched.
These were titanic struggles because the seapower stakes were so high. The United States in World War II built a “Two-Ocean Navy” that by August of 1945 boasted more than 930 surface warships, 230 submarines and a total active fleet of more than 6,700 vessels. These are breathtaking numbers compared to the fewer than 300 ships of today’s U.S. fleet.
The U.S. Navy transformed into something entirely new by the start of the Cold War, what Professor Sam Huntington dubbed the “Transoceanic Navy” in his famous 1954 article. Exploiting the oceans as the basis for American national security, the U.S. Navy claimed the Eurasian coastlines as its own.
The Cold War was decided on the basis of the Navy’s ability to make the claim stick, first to keep open the sea lanes between the United States and our allies, and second to project American industrial, military and political power ashore. No one had ever done this before, and it worked superbly. Forcing the Soviet Navy onto the defensive essentially precluded a Cold War “Battle of the Atlantic.”
The Cold War forward-based strategy was accepted so completely as to almost not bear mentioning. To control the seas was to put our opponents on the back foot, to enable and leverage alliances, and to force the global struggle on our own political and military terms. Seapower became such an intrinsic element of American national strategy that it came to both represent and drive America’s strategic posture.
The end of the Cold War put paid to this great success. Seapower became not intrinsic, but taken for granted. In the aftermath of great-power competition the overarching question for political and Navy leaders 30 years ago became how deeply to reduce the fleet, and how little we needed to maintain the supposed bare minimum. With no clear naval competitor, there appeared to be little reason for debate, let alone a declarative strategy for seapower.
Beijing understands the lessons of American seapower: Control the seas and you will control your opponents and set the terms for military and political competition. China is in the midst of a great naval buildup paralleling our own historic efforts of the past. Between 2016 and 2020, the Chinese navy has added to its fleet essentially the equivalent of Japan’s entire current surface fleet. This is a page from the U.S. Navy’s own playbook.
The Chinese navy is building larger and more formidable surface combatants far faster than anyone else, with at least eight hulls already launched of a brand-new class of large surface warships. It is starting to deploy its new carrier force in ways reflecting our own practice. Its growing amphibious force is a tangible threat to its neighbors. The PLA Navy is on track to have nearly twice as many surface ships as the U.S. Navy before the end of this decade. In the meantime, our own fleet has been arguing for decades over its own ways and means, yet so far neither have been forthcoming to any effective degree.
The influence of seapower on history is quite clear, and Americans have written much of that history. These strategic naval concepts are not particularly high-minded ideas, but the idea itself of seapower has to be actively preserved in support of its physical maintenance and implementation.
American seapower has always depended upon conscious public support. It takes a concerted effort to preserve in the public’s consciousness the tangible benefits and strategic importance of seapower — in the classroom, the press and Congress. The stakes are vital. Restoring the conceptual and physical basis for American seapower will require time, money and great effort. This is a simple formula for success, but at sea even the simplest things are difficult.
In the meantime, China is out to beat us at our own game at sea. Americans hate to lose. But we are.
• Paul Giarra is a retired Navy officer, strategic planner, and Asian security analyst who uses history as a planning tool. These views are his own.
Standing on a stage in Riyadh on June 29, 2020, U.S. Special Representative Brian Hook and Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir spoke in favor of an extension of the arms embargo on the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Behind them on display were the piled remnants of the missiles and drones Iran has provided its Houthi allies for attacks on Saudi Arabia. Mr. Hook warned of an “emboldened” Iran should the embargo expire. Mr. Jubeir cited Iran’s continued aggression and support for terrorist groups. He then concluded his remarks with this quip: “Imagine, what if there was no embargo?”
It is perhaps, then, worth examining exactly what an end to the arms embargo on Iran would mean for world peace in general and for the already unstable Middle East in particular.
The arms embargo on Iran, a product of the now defunct Iran nuclear deal, will expire on Oct. 18 of this year. The usual suspects, Russia and China, eager to make money arming the ayatollahs, are clamoring for the United Nations to allow the arms embargo to expire. The United States and its key regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, are pushing just as hard for an indefinite extension of that embargo.
Nothing has changed in regard to Iran’s desire to remake the Middle East in its image. Nothing has changed in regard to Iran’s sponsorship of terrorist groups and Shia militia. We have hobbled Tehran in terms of denying it access to advanced weaponry, but we have not changed the regime or shifted its worldview.
Meanwhile, the revolutionary Islamic rulers of Iran, even hampered by sanctions and the arms embargo, have continued to spread chaos and destruction including such actions as:
• Iranian-armed and trained Houthis have carried out 1,659 attacks on civilian areas in Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the war in Yemen, launching 318 Iranian-made ballistic missiles.
• Over the same time period, 371 drones have been launched into the Saudi Kingdom by the Houthis, and 64 explosive boats have been used to target commercial shipping in the Bab Al-Mandab and the Red Sea.
• In Iraq, Shia militia under Tehran’s direction have staged a series of attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces.
• Iran and its proxies have staged rocket attacks on Israel from Lebanon. Iran has also continued to upgrade Hezbollah’s weaponry and to provide it, in particular, with precision-guided munitions for use in future attacks on civilian targets in Israel.
• Iran has also continued its support of terrorist groups worldwide, its involvement with narcotics trafficking and its involvement with the pariah state of Venezuela.
Now imagine this regime that maintains such a level of malign activity, and that dedicates itself so intensely to destabilizing the Middle East, being armed with the latest weaponry China and Russia can supply.
The Chinese are already involved in discussions with Iran about an arrangement under which Chinese troops would be stationed in Iran and the Chinese would be able to buy Iranian oil at a discount. Under the agreement, China would also acquire basing rights in Iran and be poised to throttle the Western supply of oil from the Middle East.
At this time, however, Chinese actions pursuant to any agreement with Iran that violate the arms embargo would risk American reprisals and action by the United Nations. Freed of any such constraint, the scope of the arms sales China might ink with Tehran in exchange for Iranian oil could be staggering.
Iran’s air force, which now operates with 1980’s vintage technology, would suddenly be able to acquire advanced Chinese aircraft like the J-10 fighter. U.S. and coalition forces in the Persian Gulf might find themselves contending with Iranian forces operating Type-022 fast-attack catamarans, YJ-22 anti-ship cruise missiles, Yuan-class submarines, and FL-3000N/HHQ-10 shipboard air and missile defense systems. The entire balance of power in the critical waters surrounding Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states would shift.
Russia has also made no secret of its desire to arm Tehran and has been signaling for some time its opposition to an extension of the embargo. Iran’s potential acquisitions include Russian Su-30 fighters, Yak-130 trainers and T-90 tanks. Iran has also expressed interest in buying Russia’s sophisticated S-400 air-defense system and the lethal Bastion coastal defense system. The Su-30 fighters in question can hit targets 3,000 kilometers away. The S-400 air defense system is a threat to even the most advanced American and Israeli aircraft.
Armed with Chinese and Russian advanced weaponry, Iran would not only be able to threaten American and coalition forces it would likely trigger an arms race in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia could not possibly sit by and watch the Iranian threat to its continued existence grow by the day. Neither could Israel ignore the implications for its own security and for its ability to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Dramatically-improved Iranian air defense systems would mean Israel would be compelled to act sooner rather than later to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities.
The implications of an end to the arms embargo also extend well beyond the Middle East. Arms delivered to Iran do not have to stay in that country. Advanced weapons newly acquired by Iranian forces would almost certainly migrate to Yemen, Lebanon, Venezuela, Afghanistan and Syria.
The arms embargo on Iran was predicated on that fact that the regime in Tehran was a threat to world peace. Nothing has changed. Iran does not seek accommodation. It is dedicated instead to the export of its version of radical, revolutionary, Islamic doctrine and the destruction of everyone and everything that stands in its way.
Even hampered by sanctions and subject to an arms embargo the ayatollahs remain highly dangerous. Turned loose to arm themselves with some of the most sophisticated weapons on the planet, they will become lethal. The results of ending the arms embargo will be catastrophic and felt worldwide, making it imperative that we maintain an embargo on all arms sales to Tehran. Indefinitely.
Imagining what the world would be like were the embargo to end is bad enough. Let’s not make it a reality.
• Sam Faddis, former CIA operations officer with experience in the conduct of intelligence operations in the Middle East, South Asia and Europe, is a senior analyst at Ravenna Associates, a strategic communications company. He is the author of “Beyond Repair: The Decline and Fall of the CIA” and, with Mike Tucker, “Operation Hotel California: The Clandestine War Inside Iraq.”
Cultural suicide used to be a popular diagnosis of why things suddenly just quit.
Historians such as Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee cited social cannibalism to explain why once-successful states, institutions and cultures simply died off.
Their common explanation was that the arrogance of success ensures lethal consequences. Once elites became pampered and arrogant, they feel exempt from their ancestors’ respect for moral and spiritual laws like thrift, moderation and transcendence.
Take professional sports. Over the last century, professional football, basketball and baseball were racially integrated and adopted a uniform code of patriotic observance. The three leagues offered fans a pleasant respite from daily barroom politics. As a result, by the 21st century, the NFL, NBA and MLB had become global multibillion-dollar enterprises.
Then hubris ensued.
The owners, coaches and players weren’t always racially diverse. But that inconvenient truth did not stop the leagues from hectoring their fans about social activism — even as they no longer honored common patriotic rituals.
All three leagues have suffered terribly during the viral lockdown, as American life mysteriously went on without them. And they have almost ensured that they won’t fully recover when the quarantine ends. Many of their often-pampered multimillionaire players refuse to honor the national anthem. In the NFL they now will broadcast their politics on their helmets. They will virtue-signal their moral superiority to increasingly turned-off fans — as if to ensure that their sources of support flee.
Lots of American universities became virtual global brands in the 21st century. Sky-high tuition, rich foreign students, guaranteed student loans and Club Med-like facilities convinced administrators and faculty that higher education was sacrosanct. The universities preached that every successful American had to have a bachelor’s degree, as if the higher-education monopoly deserved guaranteed customers.
But soon, $1.6 trillion in aggregate student-loan debt, lightweight and trendy curricula, ideological hectoring, administrative bloat, reduced teaching loads, poor placement of graduates, and the suspension of the Bill of Rights on campus began turning off both students and the public.
If students can Zoom or Skype their classes from home this fall, why pay $70,000 a year for the campus “experience”?
Supposedly woke and informed rioters this summer incoherently toppled or damaged the statues of everyone from Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant to Frederick Douglass and Miguel de Cervantes. So the public might begin to wonder how the nation’s multitrillion-dollar investment in higher education actually served the country.
Soon, popular fury will beget more dangerous questions for American universities. Maybe the country should subsidize the training of more essential electricians, plumbers, contractors and masons instead of unemployable environmental and ethnic studies majors.
If a university president wanted to devise a plan for how to destroy his university, he could not have come up with a better one than what has happened on campus in recent decades.
Hollywood should have been ecstatic over 21st century globalization, which should have made filmmakers and stars even richer and more popular, with a potential audience of more than 7 billion. But the quarantine has shut down most theaters.
Amazon, Netflix and Facebook, along with cable TV, have sent theater revenues diving for years. Silicon Valley can create filmmakers who have no need to get near Southern California.
In response, Hollywood counts on bringing comic books to the big screen, or on making poor remakes of old classics. When directors try to make a serious new movie, the result is often the monotony and boredom of thinly veiled woke propaganda.
Viewers can take only so many heroic green crusaders, diverse superhumans and beautiful feminists — and only so many villainous cardboard-cutout Russian oligarchs, toothless and twangy Southern Neanderthals and corporate yes-men.
The hypocrisy gets worse when the Chinese government often adjudicates movie content as the price of entering a Chinese market with more than a billion potential customers.
But viewers do seek out theaters for more lectures from beautiful multimillionaires on their racist, sexist, homophobic country.
Professional sports, universities and the motion picture industry all know that what they are doing is bad for business. But they still believe they are rich and powerful, and thus invulnerable. They also are ignorant of history and cannot be persuaded that they are destroying themselves.
At this late date, all that matters is that the country itself learns from these suicidal examples and heals itself. If the United States is not to become an extinct Easter Island, it must rediscover a respect for its past, honor for the dead who gave us so much, the desire to invest rather than spend and a need for some sense of transcendence.
If we do not believe that what we do today has consequences for our children after we are gone, there are ancient existential forces in the world that will intervene.
And it won’t be nice.
• Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, is the author, most recently, of “The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.” You can reach him by e-mailing authorvictorhanson.com.
If, as is now probable, President Trump loses his campaign for reelection, Republicans will wish that they had paid more attention to the House.
The question that frames the election cycle for the House is this: Can Republicans pick up seats in the event of a Trump loss?
There are plenty of instances in which the presidency swung one way while the House swung the other. In 1916, Woodrow Wilson won, while Republicans picked up 19 seats. In 1960, John F. Kennedy won while Republicans picked up 20 seats. In 1988, George H.W. Bush won, while Democrats picked up two seats. In 1992, Bill Clinton won while the Republicans picked up nine seats. In 2000, George W. Bush won and the Democrats picked up two seats.
In 2016, Mr. Trump won and the Democrats picked up six seats.
This cycle is particularly susceptible to such an outcome. Take, for example, the recent special election in California’s 25th Congressional District. In 2016, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton carried that district by 9 points. In 2018, the Republican incumbent, Steve Knight, lost his reelection bid by a similar amount to Katie Hill. In the wake of a messy scandal, Ms. Hill resigned. In the special election to replace her, Republican Mike Garcia, a rookie candidate, beat a member of the California Assembly by 10 points.
There are more than 40 congressional districts in the country currently held by Democrats that are as Republican as that California district. The Republicans can and should be competitive in almost all of them: Districts such as New York’s 11th, where Mr. Trump won by 11 points, and Democrat Max Rose is trying to defend his seat against Nicole Malliotakis; or South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, where Nancy Mace is running against Democrat Joe Cunningham in a district the president won in 2016 by 13.1%; or New Mexico’s 2nd district, where Yvette Herrell is running against Xochitl Torres-Small in a district the president won by 10.2% in 2016.
It is unlikely that the Democrats will continue to hold all of these seats. In many instances, these districts had been won by Republicans for years.
What would help the House Republicans is more money (shocker). The president’s campaign has already raised $1 billion and has $300 million in the bank. Similarly, the Republican National Committee has more than $250 million in the bank. They should share some of that prize money with House Republicans, who, with appropriate resources, could pick up more seats and either seize control of the House or at least make it very difficult for the Democrats to maintain discipline at all times.
Right now, the split in the House is 232-199. The Republicans need to net 19 seats to take control of the chamber, and, more importantly, need to net as few as a dozen to be able to complicate and retard the ability of the Democrats to enact what is likely to be an aggressive and excessive agenda.
The simple reality is that it is difficult to run the House with a narrow majority, in large measure because any small group of troublemakers in the majority party can hold the House hostage. Ask former Speaker John Boehner how he feels about the Freedom Caucus.
For Democrats in the next Congress, this problem will be acute. If there is a Democratic majority in the House next year, they will be in the center ring of the ideological civil war that threatens to engulf the party of Jefferson and Jackson. Additionally, irrespective of whether they hold the majority, the Democratic caucus almost certainly will face a leadership struggle, as many House Democrats will undoubtedly expect Speaker Nancy Pelosi to honor her commitment to be a transitional leader.
At a minimum, winning House seats now will set the stage for Republicans to regain control of the House in 2022 in the wake of what will be a bumpy and contentious first two years of a Biden administration.
The monomaniacal obsession of the RNC with maintaining the president’s leaky boat of a campaign should not cause Republicans to miss opportunities to make the party stronger, grow the next generation of elected leaders, and impede the legislative and policy craziness heading straight toward us next year.
The party needs to remain focused on the House.
• 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.
There is a firestorm over churches (and holy places in general) in California, and it isn’t clear if the fire can be put out.
In California, the governor and the mayor of Los Angeles have threatened to cut off power and water to churches that don’t obey California’s recent coronavirus enforcement order for them all to be shut down. In California, churches and other holy places are regarded as non-essential services.
Because these are still threats by the governor and mayor, it isn’t clear if they will be carried out.
There are serious consequences to shutting off power to religious institutions.
To begin with, if you shut down power, security protection systems, even if they have back-up batteries for emergencies, will fail. This means that fire alarms won’t work, burglar alarms won’t work, indoor and outdoor lighting will turn off, air conditioning and heating systems, including ventilation, will stop functioning. Sensors and cameras will stop operating. Buildings will become exceedingly dangerous and vulnerable.
Cutting off water creates a sanitation health problem for any building because toilets and sinks won’t function.
Are the threats by the governor and mayor excessive? Are they reckless?
Right now we are living through an epidemic of attacks on churches, mosques, synagogues and temples. Many religious sites have been hit by burglaries and vandalism. Churches, synagogues and mosques have been set on fire. And far too many of the attacks are meant to demonstrate hatred of religion by destroying religious artifacts, Torah scrolls, prayer books and other faith symbols. Statues of Jesus and Mary have been desecrated, damaged, destroyed and burned.
No religion has been spared in attacks on religious sites.
Arson is growing around the country, including California. The 249-year-old San Gabriel Mission was mostly destroyed by fire on July 11th. The fire was not an accident. Fox News reported on July 13 that “A slew of Catholic churches from Florida to California were burned and vandalized over the weekend as police continue to investigate whether or not they are connected to protests targeting symbols and statues.”
Shutting down power makes it easier than ever to attack religious places and get away with it. Social isolation has only made things worse, not better. The reason is plain to see: People who are locked up, with no sports activities, no shops, no bars, no restaurants and no social gatherings. Communities are reaching the boiling point. While this alone can’t explain the viciousness of various protests around the country, some by violent anarchists and revolutionaries, social isolation certainly has fueled the malaise.
Religious gatherings are ways for the community to deal with the tensions of everyday life and to address both sad and happy life-cycle events. But today there are no real weddings, confirmations, bar mitzvahs, holiday observances or even proper burials under social lockdown conditions. Virtual funerals cause as much grief as they aim to mitigate.
It is in this context that the threat to shut down churches, cut off their water and power if they don’t obey, represents a rising crisis in California, now made worse in fact by a reckless and unexplained recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that ruled that a Nevada church must obey a 50-person limit. The Supreme Court split 5-4, but the majority simply made a ruling and offered no explanation for their action, a shameless way to handle an ultra-sensitive issue. The California situation actually is worse, because the government is not asking for limitations on church attendance. California is demanding a complete shutdown of all religious places.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. It also guarantees the right to assembly. But officials in California, like many other officials across the United States, are not concerned about the U.S. Constitution.
In a conversation with Fox News correspondent Tucker Carlson, Phil Murphy, the governor of New Jersey, said back in April he wasn’t thinking of the Constitution. Mr. Carlson asked, “By what authority did you nullify the Bill of Rights in issuing this order? How do you have the power to do that?” “That’s above my pay grade, Tucker,” Mr. Murphy replied. “I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this.”
Does the state have the right to close down churches, synagogues or mosques that don’t obey? That issue already came to a head in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio threatened to not only shut down but to “close” synagogues permanently that didn’t obey his orders.
So far, the challenges to coronavirus restrictions have been based on the argument that churches are being treated unfairly and unequally. What has yet to be tested is whether the state can forcibly shut down a church, synagogue or mosque either by use of police power or by other coercive means such as shutting down power and water.
As PJ Media reported on July 23, one church in California, the Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, is not closing down and is not imposing any restrictions on worshippers. Recent photos on Twitter show that the church is packed despite the COVID-19 threat, suggesting that at least in some parts of the United States people are willing to take their chances with the virus to fulfill their spiritual needs.
Of course the church in Sun Valley is waiting for the other shoe to drop. Will the California authorities try and close it down? Will they shut off water and power? Will the cops be ordered to storm the facility? Will there be another constitutional challenge? Will the Supreme Court agree it is constitutional to completely close down holy places?
The firestorm has started, although it is still too early to tell how hard and hot the winds will blow.
• Stephen Bryen is the author of the new book “Security for Holy Places” (Morgan James Publishers).