Category: Political Pandemonium
Washington’s Ominous Credibility Implosion
| February 6, 2018 | 7:43 pm | Political Pandemonium, political struggle | No comments
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Washington’s Ominous Credibility Implosion


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Finian Cunningham

All statecraft and politics is notoriously deceptive and duplicitous to a degree. It’s part of the Machiavellian game and even at times, arguably, can be paradoxically key to success for good outcomes.

But Washington’s current problem is on an altogether different scale. Its rampant duplicity seems to be spinning itself into an ominous credibility crisis. A crisis that conveys historic existential consequences for American democracy and political function. Perhaps even a harbinger of world war.

Take CIA director Mike Pompeo. Last week, he gave a big interview to Britain’s state broadcaster, the BBC, in which he reiterated serious claims that Russia hacked into the American presidential election in 2016.

Further, he forewarned that Russian state agents were planning to repeat their alleged meddling in the forthcoming mid-term Congressional elections later this year.

However, within days of making such dire accusations against the Kremlin, the American spymaster was reportedly holding meetings in Washington DC with two senior Russian intelligence figures — Alexander Bortnikov and Sergei Naryshkin. The two men represent Russia’s federal and foreign intelligence services, the FSB and SVR, respectively.There was apparently nothing untoward about the top-level meeting. The American and Russian spy chiefs were reportedly exchanging views on counter-terrorism, which arguably is a positive thing. After all, a foiled terror attack in St Petersburg recently was thwarted by Russian security services reportedly following up on a tip-off from the American CIA.

READ MORE: Under Siege: CIA Chief Says Cooperation With Russia Is Critical for US Security

But here’s the thing. Doesn’t it seem a bit strange that the chief of the CIA is warning in very public media interviews that the Kremlin is meddling in US democracy through underhand means, yet virtually his next appointment involves hosting Russia’s top spies?

Not only that, but the two Russian intelligence chiefs in question have been put on an American government sanctions list and travel ban purportedly over Russia’s “annexation” of Crimea and “aggression” in Eastern Ukraine.

So, if American official concerns about alleged Russian subversion in the US and abroad are as vexed as they are made out to be in public announcements, then how does that square with Mike Pompeo greeting his Russian counterparts in a convivial professional setting?

READ MORE: Red Scare: Russian Intelligence Chiefs Visit Rattles Washington Post

When the CIA director was challenged by Congressional Democrats about his meeting with the Russians he responded by claiming there was nothing incongruous about their cooperation in Washington, and, he said, it was tough-talking encounter.

“You and the American people should rest assured that we covered very difficult subjects in which American and Russian interests do not align,” stated Pompeo in a written reply to lawmakers.

“We vigorously defend America in these encounters and pull no punches,” he added.

Still, there does seem to be something weirdly misplaced about the official words and actions of the CIA chief, and Washington’s political class in general, with regard to Russia.

On one hand, the CIA and large sections of the US political establishment, including prominent news media outlets have been harping on about grave allegations of Russian meddling in American democracy for more than a year. Some Republican politicians have even gone as far as describing Russia’s supposed interference as “an act of war” by Moscow.

On the other hand, however, the head of the CIA seems to have no problem holding professional meetings with the Russian “arch enemies” right in the seat of American democracy.What we are talking about here is a stupendous lack of consistency, or put another way duplicity; which in turn undermines American credibility over the whole “Russiagate” narrative that has so dominated Washington’s official discourse.

No bigger discrepancy perhaps is the fact that the American head of state, President Donald Trump, maintains that the allegations of Russian collusion and interference are “fake news” — or at least overblown. That puts the country’s leader completely at odds with his head of foreign intelligence.

READ MORE: CIA Director Claims North Korea Months Away from Being Able to Strike US

How is the world supposed to take anything these people say seriously if they are so inconsistent about a matter which, we are told to believe, is a grave national security concern?

They seem to have shot their own credibility to pieces.

In his BBC interview, Pompeo also warned that North Korea was capable of a missile attack on the US “within months”.

This lack of American credibility and the danger of a catastrophic war are correlated.

America’s credibility problem is much bigger than President Trump or his CIA chief. It encompasses the entire American political class.

This past week, the Trump administration released a so-called “Kremlin Report” which impugned 210 leaders of Russian politics and business. The figures included Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, as well as Foreign and Defense Minister Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu. The Washington report, drawn up by the Treasury Department, stems from the claims of Russian interference in US politics.No credible evidence has ever been presented to substantiate the “Russiagate” claims. Moscow has repeatedly rejected the claims as baseless.

Indeed, there is plausible evidence — buried by the US mainstream media — that the alleged hacking of Democratic party computers during the 2016 election campaign was not a hack but rather was a leak from within the party by a staffer disgruntled with candidate Hillary Clinton’s dirty tricks against rival Democratic nominee Bernie Sanders.

It is also now emerging that the agencies which quite possibly interfered in the presidential election were not Russian, but rather America’s own “finest” secret services, the FBI, CIA and NSA, who were allegedly trying to sabotage then Republican candidate, and future president, Donald Trump.

For over a year, the provocative and reckless accusations of Russian interference in American democracy, and additionally in European democracy, have run and run without relent. Even though those accusations have no legs of credibility. Just this past week, as noted, the head of US intelligence solemnly reiterated those claims and is warning of more Russian meddling.Washington’s political class and America’s supposed bastions of journalism have indulged this dubious narrative to brain-numbing saturation point.

But when Washington shows such rampant duplicity and inconsistency that’s not just a problem of unfortunate public relations. It conveys a profound crisis of credibility, authority and legitimacy for the entire edifice of government. That is fatally corrosive to the essence of government and American democracy.

READ MORE: Kremlin Report: US Tries to Punish Russia for Success on Int’l Arena — Analyst

And guess what? It has nothing to do with “Russian enemies”. It is a credibility crisis made solely in America by its own morally and politically bankrupt system of governance.

The resulting chasm in Washington’s credibility has onerous implications for an historic political implosion. And surely the much misled American people will take their revenge. It’s going to get raucous and it’s going to get ugly.

Paradoxically, a day of reckoning could be good for renewing American democracy, eventually.

There again it also makes the world a very dangerous place. Because war, for example a US military strike on North Korea, is a proven Machiavellian escape route for political scoundrels facing a dead-end.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

Academic: Trump Has Brought a Degree of Chaos to the US Political System

Academic: Trump Has Brought a Degree of Chaos to the US Political System

US First Lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence

Academic: Trump Has Brought a Degree of Chaos to the US Political System


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Bloomberg’s pessimist prognosis envisages US President Donald Trump winning a second term which would lead the US to a deep recession. David O’Brien from the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham Ningbo China, has told Radio Sputnik that the political chaos instigated by Trump could translate into economic problems.

Sputnik: Bloomberg’s pessimist guide asserts that US would fall into a deep recession. What is the likelihood of this happening and what could trigger this recession?

David O’Brien: A couple of years ago everybody was predicting the decline of the Republican Party. Due to demographic changing nature of the American society the Republican Party was finished. Along comes Donald Trump and everything changed. This prediction always has to be incapable of seeing what’s around the corner. With Donald Trump in office we have seen real political instability in the United States. To some degree that’s what he wants, he works through chaos, he has brought instability to the system but political instability cannot be good for an economy in the long run. And we could see in the very near future a government shutdown if Congress can’t agree to a budget and that is a real possibility. There is a serious trade deficit with China which could trigger a trade war. We have the possibility of international conflict on the Korean Peninsula, which would have very serious repercussions for the world economy, American economy, Chinese economy, environmental disaster or perhaps America’s long slow decline, perhaps, similar to Japan.

READ MORE: Glass Half Full? Bloomberg’s ‘Pessimist’s Guide’ Too Bleak, Expert Says

Sputnik: Which of those scenarios you actually went through? Which you think is the most likely scenario of doom under Mr. Trump?   

David O’Brien: All the indicators are up — GDP, the markets are doing well, unemployment is down, employment is up, people have more money in their pockets. American economy seems to be in the best shape it’s been since before the financial collapse [of] 2008. But can Donald Trump take any credit for that? Is he responsible for that or is this a recovery that was already taking place? Lots of commentators and academics would argue it was already taking place before Trump came to office and that the economy moves slower than that. If we do see any increase in the political instability, if we do see a government shutdown you know that could very quickly come to a halt. I mean Donald Trump has brought a degree of chaos to the American political system. The political system and the economic system are obviously deeply entwined. The economy doesn’t like chaos it doesn’t like uncertainty, it doesn’t like the potential for uncertainty. It’s a real possibility that the political chaos could have an economic impact…or maybe not.

READ MORE: ‘Moore’s Alabama Senate Defeat Could Be Political Death of Trump’ — Analyst

U.S. Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore rides a horse to vote, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, in Gallant, Ala.
U.S. Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore rides a horse to vote, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, in Gallant, Ala.

Sputnik: Is 2018 going to be a turning point? Trump started with the majority support in Congress, we are going to see elections; we are going to see, perhaps, a change in the makeup of Congress and the Senate in 2018.

David O’Brien: Donald Trump came into office with a huge, very strong hand. He had both houses and he has struggled to take full advantage of that. He’s had very little success in getting his legislative agenda passed. Now as he begins to see a decline in the numbers in the Senate, the Republicans have just lost Alabama. There is an indication that he [Trump] is becoming weaker on that front. In mid-term elections are coming up, if Donald Trump performs badly his whole narrative, that of a winner, and if he encounters a situation where he is a loser that could be very tricky for the whole Donald Trump agenda and the whole Donald Trump narrative. So yes, maybe 2018 will be a turning point. But Donald Trump is like nothing we have ever seen before in American politics, hold on to the seats, who knows [what will be].

The views and opinions expressed by David O’Brien are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

Texas prisons ban ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ but not Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’

Texas prisons ban ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ but not Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’

Texas prisons ban ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ but not Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’
Thousands of books are considered prohibited reading for inmates doing time in Texas prisons. The list of banned and permissible material, however, has raised some eyebrows.

The Texas prison system has banned more than 10,000 selections from the shelves of their on-site libraries, yet it is sometimes difficult to find the logic behind the decision-making process.

For example, Alice Walker’s ‘The Color Purple,’ which was awarded the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, will not be found in Texas prisons. Yet inmates may cuddle up at night with a copy of Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf,’ the notoriously anti-Semitic tract that Hitler began writing, ironically, while behind bars.

‘The Color Purple’ is forbidden because it describes a rape scene.

Other selections with completely innocuous titles – including ‘Hello Kitty,’ ‘Harry Potter Film Wizardry’ and ‘The Amazing Spider Man’ – are prohibited not because of their content, but because they may contain pop-up sections or multilayer pages with which it may be possible to conceal contraband.

Other books are banned from prison libraries in Texas because they may provide certain information that prison officials would prefer not to be disseminated. For example, the ‘History of Pubs and Pubs Signs’ got blacklisted because it contains a section outlining the manufacture of alcohol.

Not everyone, however, agrees that there should be a blacklist for certain controversial books.

“To block access to ‘Where’s Waldo’ on the one hand, and Shakespeare on the other, doesn’t preserve order,” James LaRue, the director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association, told the New York Times. “It preserves ignorance and imprisonment. All too often, prison censorship, in addition to being an arbitrary abuse of authority, denies the incarcerated the chance to get out of jail and stay out.”

Nevertheless, some of the titles from the lengthy banned list – including ‘Concealed Carry Handguns,’ ‘The Complete Survival Guide,’ ‘The Idiot’s Guide to Kickboxing’ and ‘FBI Handbook of Crime Scene Forensics’ – seem like obvious choices to keep out of the hands of the general prisoner population.

At the same time, one may wonder how ‘My Awakening’ by David Duke, an American white nationalist, got the green light.

Novels of an erotic nature are only banned if the sexual behavior is unlawful, which explains why some of E.L. James’ ‘Fifty Shades’ books were deemed inappropriate.

“If the book does not violate the uniform offender correspondence policy, then offenders are allowed to have it,” Clark, a spokesman at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, told The New York Times. “Offenders have access to thousands of publications.”

Prisoners serving time in the Texas prison system have access to more than 248,000 titles, which were detailed by the Dallas Morning News in November.

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a publication may be banned because it contains:

– Information on the manufacture of explosives, weapons or drugs.

– Material that a reasonable person would construe as written solely for the purpose of communicating information designed to achieve the breakdown of prisons through offender disruption, like strikes, riots.

– Graphic presentations of illegal sex acts, “such as rape, incest, sex with a minor, bestiality, necrophilia or bondage.”

– Sexually explicit images. “Naked or partially covered buttocks” does not necessarily mean automatic disapproval. Staff review required for publications containing nudity on a case-by-case basis.

– Information on criminal schemes or “how to avoid detection of criminal schemes.”

– Contraband that cannot be removed.

What if Donald Trump loses and refuses to leave? | Opinion

What if Donald Trump loses and refuses to leave? | Opinion

Special prosecutor Robert Mueller zeroed in on President Donald Trump's business dealings with Deutsche Bank as his investigation into alleged Russian meddling in U.S. elections widens. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Special prosecutor Robert Mueller zeroed in on President Donald Trump’s business dealings with Deutsche Bank as his investigation into alleged Russian meddling in U.S. elections widens. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

In the annals of sore losers, few presidents stand out like John Adams after his loss to Thomas Jefferson in 1800. On Inauguration Day, the testy Adams passed up his successor’s swearing-in. He left the White House, boarded his horse-drawn coach and fled toward Quincy, Mass., before sunrise.

Adams’ offense was leaving too soon. The question worrying me, however, is: What if Congress ousts Donald Trump by impeachment — or he’s defeated for reelection — and he won’t go?

Before you sneer at this notion as preposterous, consider the exhausting list of our president’s normalized behaviors and outrageous offenses that, two years ago, would have been unfathomable: A torrent of lies and insulting tweets, public affection for tyrants, turning the presidency into a profit center, alleged obstruction of justice, unabashed racism, praise of Nazis and stunning denigration of the State Department, FBI and CIA.

Today, Trump’s ill-mannered, infantile and illegal behavior prompts nary a raised eyebrow with 30 percent of the public. The rest, meanwhile, cannot remain scandalized about yesterday’s outrage because of today’s new outrage and the expectation of what fresh hell comes tomorrow.

The other day, Trump endorsed Roy Moore, the bigoted, lawless Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Alabama accused of child molestation. This shameful, shocking endorsement is now known as “something that happened on Monday.”

The idea Trump might barricade himself in the White House, declare his impeachment unconstitutional — or his reelection stolen — is within the realm of possibility. It comports with what we know about Trump’s anti-democratic, authoritarian tendencies. From there, it’s easy to picture Trump going a dangerous step further and urging his supporters to descend on Washington and prevent his removal. Honestly, it doesn’t take much imagination to envision Trump, if he loses, encouraging civil unrest to save his hide.

Hogwash, you say. The president must leave if the Senate convicts or voters reject him. OK, show me the clause in the Constitution that spells out who arrests a defeated president and escorts him from the White House. Here’s what the Constitution says about presidents who refuse to leave: Nothing, absolutely nothing.

It turns out American democracy is built upon the now-shaky assumption that our elected officials respect the voters’ will. Our system works because those who serve at all levels know they answer to the people. The president is not above the law. And no one, especially the president, has the legal standing to veto an election (or an impeachment conviction by the Senate).

The United States differs from pseudo-democracies in that if you lose, no one need send the cops or the troops to extract you from office. It’s been the long tradition in American politics that losing, outgoing officials cooperate in the transition of power.

I ask you this: Knowing what you know about Trump, his values and his personality, what are the chances he would relinquish the office peacefully?

If you don’t believe Trump regards himself as above the law, consider that his attorney recently declared it impossible for the president to obstruct justice, the key charge against Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton during their respective impeachment proceedings.

The “President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case,” Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, told Mike Allen of the news site Axios last weekend. Trump and his spokespersons have yet to repudiate the outrageous position that the president is now a monarch.

A president such as Trump, with autocratic impulses, who persists in claiming the popular vote was stolen from him by three million illegal ballots would have no qualms voiding the results of the next election.

A Congress that attempted to enforce the election outcome or its impeachment decision could not remove Trump from office if he resolved to stay. What official could get past the Secret Service to arrest and imprison a former president who refuses to abdicate? Does that mean defenders of democracy might have to storm the White House, overpower the former president’s protectors and drag him from the building?

Laugh at this scenario, but two years ago you would have scoffed at the possibility of 95 percent of what Trump has done since Jan. 20. Consider also the recent speculation that Trump might fire special counsel Robert Mueller or pardon himself and current and former staff members if they are indicted. After Trump sacked FBI Director James Comey, these once-preposterous notions are now conventional wisdom. None of it should surprise anyone who’s paid attention.

In the era of Trump, the obscene becomes normalized. What was unimaginable last year is next year’s plausible nightmare. I pray it will not happen, but with Donald Trump as president, it would be foolish not to discuss it and prepare for just such a constitutional crisis.

Robert Mann, an author and former U.S. Senate and gubernatorial staffer, holds the Manship Chair in Journalism at the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. Read more from him at his blog, Something Like the Truth. Follow him on Twitter @RTMannJr or email him at

US Republican lawmaker Bob Corker: Donald Trump could put US ‘on path to WWIII’
| October 9, 2017 | 9:31 am | Donald Trump, Political Pandemonium | No comments

US Republican lawmaker Bob Corker: Donald Trump could put US ‘on path to WWIII’

US Republican lawmaker Bob Corker: Donald Trump could put US ‘on path to WWIII’

Republican Bob Corker, a former supporter of Trump, has voiced “concern” at the US president’s actions, which he says could lead to war. The comment comes amid a growing spat between the two men.

US President Donald Trump came under attack from a top member of his own Republican party on Sunday, with Senator Bob Corker telling The New York Times that the president’s threats toward other countries could put America “on the path to World War III.”

In the Times interview, Corker accused the president of running his administration like a “reality show,” a barb alluding to Trump’s previous television activities as host of the game show “The Apprentice.”

“He concerns me,” Corker said. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”

Long-running feud

Corker, a former Trump ally who chairs the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has in recent months turned into one of the president’s most outspoken Republican critics. The two men are involved in a vitriolic and public feud on social media that lays bare profound rifts within the Republic party, where few have openly dared to defy the president.

Trump on Sunday unleashed a tirade of tweets against Corker, saying that Corker had decided against running for re-election in 2018 because he lacked the “guts” and that he was “largely responsible for the horrendous” nuclear deal with Iran.

Corker’s response was stinging, suggesting that the president wasn’t being properly supervised in a White House that had been turned into an “adult day care center.”

The spat could be detrimental to Trump’s legislative agenda, as Corker’s voice is vital regarding not only the nuclear deal with Iran, which the president wants to scrap, but also passing tax reform.

Read more:  What is the Iran nuclear deal?     

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Trump on Iran


Former favorite

The faltering relationship between Trump and Corker, who was reportedly once considered as a potential secretary of state, took a turn for the worse in August after Trump made much-criticized remarks about violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. Corker said the president had failed to demonstrate the stability and competence essential for his job.

The feud deepened last week when Trump seemed to withdraw his confidence in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after Tillerson attempted to find channels for dialogue with North Korea. Trump tweeted that Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate.”

In an apparent reference to Trump, Corker told reporters on Wednesday that the secretary of state was not getting the support he needed from above, calling Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly “people who help separate our country from chaos.”

tj/kms (AFP, AP)