Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Tillerson Leaves, A Dead-locked Pennsylvania Election, Stephen Hawking Meets God, and British PM Theresa May Shows Us What Moral Rectitude Means
THE REAL NEWS TODAY IS MULTI-FACETED. It involves Rex Tillerson and the Trump agenda, President Trump and Southwest Pennsylvania, Stephen Hawking and God, and the UK and Russia. Let's move from the least to the most important. • • • TRUMP FIRES TILLERSON. This can hardly be described as "news." The Sectretary of State so often expressed his disagreement and even disdain for the foreign policy agenda of the President he worked for that it was only a matter of time before the split became official. What is most surprising always has been why President Trump chose Tillerson in the first place. My own analysis is that it was a act taken in his early days befroe Trump understood just how effective stonewalling could be, carried out by those in his own inner circle of senior staff. It also reflected the influence of the gone and happily forgotten Reince Priebus, who was influential as Trump's campaign link to the Swampy GOP leadership and then as his chief of staff. Tillerson and several other high level appointees were clearly touted and pushed at Trump as ways to "bond" him to the Washington establishment GOP. Tillerson was never going to work out. He fought Trump and tried to save the Iran nuclear deal, ignoring President Trump's demands that the agreement be fixed or completely scrapped by the US. Tillerson tried to convince European allies to agree to a range of fixes to the nuclear deal that would address Iran's ongoing ballistic missile program and continued nuclear research. He failed and then, according to the Washington Free Beacon, agreed to European demands to appease Tehran while preserving the deal. Tillerson will be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a former member of Congress who established a record as being tough on Iran and echoing many of the policies called for by Trump. Insiders expect Pompeo to take a much harder line on the nuclear deal and pursue many of the fixes advocated by Trump, such as outlawing Iran's ballistic missile program and instating fierce repercussions for any future breach. Opponents of the Iran deal on Capitol Hill welcomed the news of Tillerson's exit, telling the Free Beacon that as the deadline approaches for the United States and European allies to fix the Iran deal, Pompeo can help push Trump's hardline stance. One senior congressman said : "As the deadline approaches to fix the Iran Deal, Tillerson's departure is welcome news. We need our top diplomat to share the President's view on the disastrous nature of the JCPOA, and CIA Director Pompeo is the right man for the job. Hopefully now our European partners understand the President's resolve and will work with us to permanently prevent Iran from going nuclear." • But, it wasn't only Iran that divided Tillerson and Trump. Tillerson disagreed with Trump's tough tactics toward North Korea and Kim Jong-un. Fox News says the President decided to make this decision "ahead of the expected upcoming summit between him and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Fox says : "While it might be highly disruptive, making the move now makes sense. If Tillerson was against the potential summit, and President Trump felt that he and Tillerson did not have the needed working relationship to make sure the President was ready for what could be the ultimate of meetings, then this paring had to be terminated -- ASAP. President Trump simply can’t walk into that summit, or even prep for it, without having not only top-tier people he can trust but also people he has good chemistry with. This might explain some of the reason needed to make the move -- and make it now. In the next few weeks, the Trump administration will be involved in a high-stakes poker game with North Korea that is highly reminiscent of the backroom dealing that took place during the Cold War or summitry that takes place with China and other great powers. The stakes could not be higher. • The President said Tuesday morning that he and Tillerson disagreed on too many issues to work well together. “We were not really thinking the same,” Trump told reporters. “Really, it was a different mind-set, a different thinking.” One source told the Free Beacon that Tillerson isolated top US diplomats and even failed to return phone calls from senior officials such as David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel. Appearances can be deceiving. But, Rex Tillerson's appearance has always seemed to be that of a person lethargic and uncommitted to what he is doing. He is sluggish and Trump is a dynamo of actiivity. These two could not be more different, and if we look at the "stars" of the Trump cabinet, they are all dynamos, like their President. Add that personal difference to the policy differences Tillerson had with Trump about Iran, North Korea issue, what to do about Syria, and the complex challenge of Russia, and it is clear that President Trump was right to fire Tillerson in favor of a Secretary of State he has confidence in. • There are a multitude of Washington and media rumors that President Trump is also considering other hight level changes. He needs to make them quickly and settle down into a White House routine with senior staff and cabinet members he trusts and sees as highly competent and loyal. That last one -- loyaly-- is frowned on by ProgDems who see it as somehow a negative, but loyalty can make or break a presidency. The candidates suggested for replacement include National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and even Chief of Staff General Kelly. Many conservatives are uncomfortable with McMaster's views on Islam, and that may be reason enough to replace him. But, some of my contacts tell me that McMaster is a valuable member of the White House team. Let's hope Trump soon gives a definitive signal about General McMaster. As for General Kelly, we have seen his steadying influence on the Turmp brand of leadership. I for one would hate to see him go, and most conservatives would agree with me, I believe. The problem Kelly has may be Trump's family -- Jared and Ivanka to be exact -- who go around Kelly and gum up his organization and planning. If President Trump really did poll his friends at Mar-a-Lago during a weekend there recently about how they see Jared and Ivanka, it could be the sign the President is ready to replace them for the good of his agenda. There are many thing Jared and Ivanka could do as boosters for her father as unofficial team members. Let's also hope the President soon makes this clear as well. • • • TRUMP AND SOUTHWEST PENNSYLVANIA. This is my home territory, so I can understand full well the problems of bringing home a victory for Saccone, a GOP state legislator who is respected but about as charismatic as the local postmaster. The Democrat Lamb is young, comes from a family full of regional and statewide Democrat officeholders and officials, and who energetically ran circles around Saccone. But, as I write, the election is too close to call. That will be touted by ProgDems and the mainstream media as a resounding defeat for Trump and an omen that the Democrats are going to sweep the mid-term elections. Let me tell you it "ain't necessarily so." • Southwest Pennsylvania is Democrat country and has been since the 1930s. Its voters often vote for a Republican Governor or President, but their local officials are most often Democrats. They were not rejecting President Trump on Tuesday. They were simply doing what they always do -- voting Democrat in local elections. The Trump team has a lot to learn from southwest Pennsylvania and its election patterns. There is a lot to take away. First, local elections are not presidential elections, and what makes a local area love Trump for President may not be what makes them love a local politician. That should translate into a serious effort to understand and speak to every congressional district during the mid-terms about THEIR issues, THEIR problems, THEIR fears and hopes. Although he didn't create the phrase, House Speaker Tip O'Neill often said "all politics is local." America is the "local" in presidential elections and Americans vote for the candidate they think will do best for America. Hometown is the "local" for almost all other elections, and Americans vote for the candidate they think will do best for their town or area. Former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, understands this : "The President has a 50% favorability rating, according to the Monmouth poll, in the district. So it's solid Trump country," Rendell said on Fox News.” But, Rendell said that “he [Lamb] did a good job of not letting the Republicans 'nationalize' the race." Trump and his team need to get hold of that and forget the idea that the President's heartland popularity will create a magic miracle win in November's mid-terms. President Trump can certainly help -- his coattails surely helped Saccone -- but it is the local issues that are critically important. They need to be understood and addressed by the GOP local candidate and by all Republicans who go into any congressional district to help. That is just good politics. And -- this is just my opinion -- it is what made Steve Bannon so important in 2106. Bannon understands the "local" in politics. It is an art form not understood by most, but those who grasp it can be the real "miracle" workers. • • • STEPHEN HAWKING AND GOD. Professor Hawking has long been a critic of ideas of the afterlife or an all-powerful God. He said it was natural to believe in the divine before we understand science -- but that science had now provided a better explanation. In his best-selling book "A Brief History of Time," the renowned physicist Stephen Hawking claimed that when physicists find the theory he and his colleagues are looking for -- a so-called "theory of everything" -- then they will have seen into "the mind of God." The UK Independent published an obituary of sorts on Wednesday when Stephen Hawking died. The Independent wrote that Hawking was "heralded as one of the finest minds in the world, even though he had lived with the expectation of an early death for much of his life. When he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at 21, it was expected to take him in just a few years -- but he lived for more than 50, continuing to reveal the universe's darkest secrets and becoming a medical miracle at the same time. Professor Hawking said that living with the disease and the prognosis that came with it had given him a philosophical approach to his own death. But there was always plenty more he wanted to get out of the way before it happened." Professor Hawking has said : "I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first." That is what he told The Guardian in 2011. In the same interview, Professor Hawking dismissed the comforts of belief in the afterlife, and said that he expected nothing to greet him after he died : "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark." But he said that there was no need for there to be life after death to make people behave well while they were alive. "We should seek the greatest value of our action," he said, when asked how we should live. Hawking's work led him to say : "Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in." The comment made by Professor Hawking -- that it was natural to believe in the divine before we understand science but that science had now provided a better explanation -- has led some religious advocates to use his own work as a suggestion of the belief in a God. Professor Hawking closed his famous A Brief History Of Time by writing : "It would be the ultimate triumph of human reason -- for then we should know the mind of God." But Professor Hawking made clear, not only in his 2010 book The Grand Design, that he meant that comment only metaphorically. In that book and elsewhere, he argued that it wasn't necessary for a creator to have begun the universe, putting him in direct contradiction of many of the people who had made use of that quote. "What I meant by 'we would know the mind of God' is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God. Which there isn't. I'm an atheist." • That leaves those of us who know there is a God, and that He is a personal God, to pray for the soul of Stephen Hawking, for he has a soul and it must now be in the presence of God. We must ask God to forgive Stephen Hawking for his human pride that refused to see the universal plan in God's works and to take pity on his soul undoubtedly tortured by his physical infirmities and troubled by his great intellect. To "know the mind of God" surely reminds many of us of another statement of faith. It ws on Janaury 28, 1986, when President Ronald Reagan addressed the nation after the Challenger spaceship disaster. President Reagan reached out to a nation in shock and he found the words of his faith in God to comfort us and the world : “The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.' ” • May Stephen Hawking rest in peace, and may the God of Love erase his pain, both physical and spiritual. • • • PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY LEADS GREAT BRITAIN AND THE WEST AS SHE TAKES ON PRESIDENT PUTIN AND RUSSIA. British Prime Minister Theresa May announced in Parliament on Wednesday that Britain will expel 23 Russian diplomats from the United Kingdom following the suspicious nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter -- the largest such expulsion since the Cold War. PM May told the Commons : “All who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers : they have just one week to leave. This will be the single biggest expulsion for over 30 years and it will reflect the fact that this is not the first time the Russian state has acted against our country.” May’s announcement came hours after Moscow ignored a midnight deadline to explain how the military-grade nerve agent, which was developed by the former Soviet Union, came to be used against ex-spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury in southern England. Prime Minister May had already summoned the Russian ambassador for an explanation after Moscow denied any involvement in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Additionally, May said no British officials or members of the Royal family will attend this summer’s World Cup in Russia. She also announced a range of economic and diplomatic measures, including a decision to cancel all high-level bilateral contacts with Russia. • In a precise catalogue of both the use of the nerve gas and her government's actions, Mrs. May said : "The UK briefed the North Atlantic Council today on the use of a nerve agent in Salisbury on 4 March. The UK confirmed the use of a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia and briefed Allies that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible. The UK also confirmed that this was an indiscriminate and reckless attack against the United Kingdom, putting the lives of innocent civilians at risk. Allies expressed deep concern at the first offensive use of a nerve agent on Alliance territory since NATO’s foundation. Allies expressed solidarity with the UK, offered their support in the conduct of the ongoing investigation, and called on Russia to address the UK’s questions including providing full and complete disclosure of the Novichok program to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Allies agreed that the attack was a clear breach of international norms and agreements. Since its entry into force in 1997, the Chemical Weapons Convention has become one of the pillars of the global non-proliferation regime. The Convention prohibits the development, transfer and use of chemical weapons. States Parties to the Convention take on a duty to uphold and enforce its fundamental tenets. States Parties commit not to develop, produce or otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, nor to transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone. States Parties also undertake not to engage in any military preparations to use chemical weapons, nor to commit to assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in prohibited activity. NATO has repeatedly condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria and called on those responsible to be held to account. NATO regards any use of chemical weapons as a threat to international peace and security." • PM May said that Russia had "demonstrated 'complete disdain' for the gravity of events in Salisbury and they have provided 'no credible explanation' for how the Russian-made Novichok nerve agent was used in the attack. 'This represents an unlawful use of force against the United Kingdom,' she said, noting Russian officials have treated the incident with 'sarcasm, contempt and defiance.' It must be met with a full and robust response." • May also canceled an invitation for Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to visit Britain. She added : "We will freeze Russian state assets wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents." Mrs. May said that while many Russians who have made the United Kingdom their home and abide by the laws, “those who seek to do us harm, my message is simple; you are not welcome here.” • Russia's ambassador to the UK tweeted that the British Government response to the Salisbury attack is "absolutely unacceptable and we consider this a provocation." The Russian ambassador warned the UK to expect a retaliation for the expulsion of the country’s diplomats. Alexander Vladimirovich Yakovenko told Sky News the United Kingdom’s actions are “unacceptable” and Moscow considers them a provocation. "This is a really serious provocation,” he said. Moscow has refused to comply with Britain's demands unless the government provided samples of the poison collected by investigators. • Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Wednesday that Russia "rejects the language of ultimatums." European Council President Donald Tusk said Wednesday the attack was "most likely" inspired by Moscow and announced he would put the issue on the agenda at an EU leaders' summit next week. • When Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn attacked Tory cuts to diplomatic service amid the Russian crisis, he was roundly booed by backbenchers. Corbyn also questioned why samples of a deadly nerve agent have not been sent to Moscow for analysis amid escalating tensions with Russia over the poisoning of an ex-spy and his daughter. The Labour leader described the use of a military-grade nerve agent on Sergei and Yulia Skripal as an "appalling act of violence" but drew jeers from both Conservative and Labour MPs for pressing the Prime Minister on what evidence the Government had for blaming the Kremlin for the incident in Salisbury. Pat McFadden, a Labour MP, hit at Jeremy Corbyn over his response to May's remarks, saying there is a Labour tradition which recognizes the importance of standing up for the UK : "Responding with strength and resolve when your country is under threat is an essential comment of political leadership. There is a Labour tradition that understands that." DUP's Sammy Wilson describes Corbyn's response to May's statement as "the policy of appeasement." Senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper said Russia “must be met with unequivocal condemnation” - a clear swipe at her party's leader. Chuka Umunna, another Labour MP, was critical of the Labour leader : "There is only one appropriate response to the actions of the Russian Federation on UK soil -- nothing less than unequivocal condemnation. I very much welcome the tranche of measures the PM has just announced which have been praised across the House." The Ulster DUP Sammy Wilson described Corbyn's response to May's statement as "the policy of appeasement." • After Corbyn questioned whether Mrs. May is making available samples of the nerve gas to Russia, Patrick Wintour said the Government has, and that UK has, now offered to give nerve agent samples for OPCW to examine. In response to Corbyn, May said it is already clear she has a consensus with her international allies, and crucially, with backbenchers. She said Corbyn "could have taken the opportunity to condemn the culpability of the Russian state, and he chose not too." May has called for a UN Security Council emergency meeting and it will take place later on Wednesday. May also said she has spoken with German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron, as well as President Trump, announcing that she will speak to other partners and allies in the coming days. • • • DEAR READERS, there is no political arena like the British House of Commons, where every prime minister must answer questions every week. This week, Prime Minister Theresa May took the beginning of the "Prime Minister's Questions," as the Wednesday session is called, to announce her Government's actions in the face of the use of Russian nerve gas in the Salisbury attack. • There is also no political reaction quite like that of Great Britain when it is sure that its sovereignty and values have been seriously attacked. That was what we saw on Wednesday in the Mother of Parliaments. While we could have expected France or Germany to deal with such an attack through semi-hidden diplomatic channels, the British leader spoke out in full public view of the world. There can be no media 're-writing' of what Mrs. May said on Wednesady. There can be no attempt of the leftist British press to hide the disdain shown for the attitude and words of Labout leader Jeremy Corbyn's effort to place blame Mrs. May for anything related to the Russian nerve gas attack. The British are still bastions of western democratic values, no matter how often we have to ask if the UK has 'lost it' over one political issue or another. Prime Minister Theresa May gave full voice to this when she announced the Security Council meeting. As she vowed to degrade Russia's espionage network “for years to come,” announcing proposed new powers to detain potential spies at the UK border, Prime Minister May said she will be pushing for a robust response fron the Security Council, because this "was not just an attempted murder but an affront to the use of chemical weapons." BUT, Mrs. May also and rightly said the robust response "must also stay true to our values, recognizing the important contribution of Russians in the UK." She noted that "it is not in our national interest to break off dialogue," but said she will suspend all high-level diplomatic cooperation between the UK and Russia. • We noted last week in a blog about the film "The Darkest Hours," Winston Churchill's World War II question to the Commons about the Nazis : "Who do they think we are?" Theresa May's Commons speech on Wednesday continued that glorious British tradition of national pride and moral rectitude.