Sunday, June 10, 2018
Trump Out-Deals Trudeau and Macron on Trade before Heading to Singapore; It Felt Like Bogart in Rick's American Cafe
[Sorry for today's early posting. Things will be back to normal tomorrow.] BEFORE THE TRUMP-KIM SUMMIT, TRUMP FINESSES TRUDEAU AND MACRON. Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau ought to have known better than to attack Donald Trump frontally. But, instead of explaining their positions on the Trump tariffs on steel and aluminum, as American Thinker's Monica Showalter put it : "After Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and French president Emmanuel Macron intemperately mouthed off on Twitter about American awfulness ahead of the G7 meeting in Quebec, President Trump got their goat by suggesting that Russian president Vladimir Putin be brought back into the group. It was a clever move, whipping out the boogeyman of the left as a sort of agenda item, in a bid to teach those unruly leftist partners some manners. The Daily Mail made the doomed Frenchified gambit clear : 'Trump's bold pronouncement came after he already has been engaged in angry back-and-forth with traditional allies France and Canada in a trade war. The Trump administration slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from the allies, citing a national security exception. The Canadian prime minster blasted back mentioning Canada's military contributions in Afghanistan, while French President Emanuel Macron said Thursday the remaining six G6 nations could operate without US leadership.' " • Showalter said : "What we have here is Trump engaging in the art of the deal again, this time playing Bad Cop, given that they threw out the first shots against his tariff agenda. Instead of simply explaining to Trump the problems with tariff-slapping, which, as mannerly French-speakers, they should have done, they fired full bore at Trump, hoping he would cave. Well, he didn't. He threw a monkey wrench into their neat little plans by making the summit about letting Russia back in instead of keeping the focus on tariffs. How quickly they have now learned that he is better at playing such games than they are....Trump is in charge here, and now he's managed to discipline a couple of rude coevals on the international stage." • Trudeau and Macron were still in primary school when Trump was building skyscrapers, amassing a fortune, and honing the art of the deal. They really should have thought this one out a little better, but it points out why, despite their bravado, neither Macron's France nor Trudeau's Canada nor the G7 can go it alone. • • • TRUMP'S POLLS LOOK GOOD. The Fox News Poll shows record approval of President Trump on the economy and optimism on North Korea. The poll is based on landline and cellphone interviews with 1,001 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide from June 3-6, 2018. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3% for all registered voters. President Trump’s overall job rating is holding steady, with a record number approving of his handling of the economy, and most like the fact that he’s meeting with North Korea. Looking at the President's performance -- 45% of voters approve of his performance, while 51% disapprove. It was 44-53% in April. While more voters “strongly disapprove” (41%) than “strongly approve” (27%), that 14-point intensity gap is down from a high of 24 points in October 2017....With a seasonally adjusted 3.8% unemployment rate, President Trump gets credit for his handling of the economy....The Fox poll shows increasing optimism about North Korea, with more voters now thinking it could be convinced to give up its nuclear weapons -- 28% feel that way, up 12 points from 16% three months ago (March 2018). Still, a majority, 60%, says North Korea won’t let go of its nukes. By a narrow margin, voters think war with North Korea is less likely than it was two years ago (33% less likely, 28% more likely, 35%), and most approve of the President meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (66-24%). More expect Trump (40%) than Kim (30%) to negotiate the “better deal.” • Republican pollster Daron Shaw, who conducts the Fox News poll with Democrat Chris Anderson, says : “Americans have mixed feelings on North Korea. They want the US to negotiate with Kim Jong-un even though they doubt the North Koreans would ever concede on the main sticking point between our countries : nuclear weapons. They also seem to think President Trump might be able to get a good deal, even though no one has a clue as to what that deal might entail....Opinions of how the president is doing are underpinned by strong and specific beliefs about the fundamental character of Donald Trump. Don’t expect his approval rating to change unless something happens to challenge core beliefs about him personally.” • • • IN ANOTHER ART OF THE DEAL, TRUMP DEALT WITH THE WHITE HOUSE IFTAR DINNER. The Western Journal reported on Thursday that : "Activist American Islamic cultural groups -- including the controversial Council on American-Islamic Relations [CAIR] -- have protested the White House’s decision to host an iftar dinner without inviting them. Iftar is the traditional Ramadan dinner held after sunset when observant Moslems are allowed to break the daily fast required during the holy month. The Trump White House broke with tradition by not holding one in 2017, but surprised many by hosting one this year -- albeit with what the Associated Press described as : “An intimate audience that included Cabinet members and ambassadors from many Moslem-majority nations including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Trump wished the attendees a “Ramadan Mubarak” -- a blessed holiday -- and gave the assembled 30 to 40 individuals a 'message of unity. In gathering together this evening, we honor a sacred tradition of one of the world’s great religions. Only by working together can we achieve a future of security and prosperity for all.” • HOWEVER, several domestic Moslem groups -- who have frequently clashed with President Trump -- [who were not invited] hosted a protest across the street from the White House called “NOT Trump’s Iftar.” The event was sponsored by CAIR, a group that was an unindicted co-conspirator in America’s largest terrorism-funding trial and has been controversial for its ties to terrorist groups and other religious extremists. CAIR said in a statement : “Wednesday’s event is designed as a counterpoint to the iftar that will take place at that same time in the White House. President Trump has attacked Moslems since the beginning of his campaign and codified his Islamophobia with the Moslem Bans. Now he wants to make nice and host an iftar dinner after skipping the tradition last year. Join us this for a counter iftar held simultaneously outside the White House to say not in our name." • CAIR is a liberal advocacy organization, apparently with extremely dubious contacts with extremist groups across the globe. • Western Journal says : "The expectation that the Trump administration was going to 'make nice' with CAIR and give their language about 'Islamophobia' and 'Moslem Bans" a venue for airing -- at a White House iftar, no less -- is prima facie absurd. Yet, this seemed to be what liberals were upset about. The Huffington Post (of course) ran a piece on Wednesday’s iftar dinner titled 'Trump’s White House Iftar Is Missing Major American Moslem Groups.' No, not really. It was just short a few liberal advocacy and/or extremist groups posing as Moslem organizations. And for that matter, it’s not like other groups aside from CAIR that were protesting were much better. In fact, former FBI counter-terrorism Special Agent John Guandolo argued in Breitbart News in 2015 that the majority of Islamic organizations in America had ties to terrorism. That may be a bit of an overestimation, but if it is, it’s probably not as much of one as we might have hoped....The activists and the media didn’t like it, of course. But nettling Islamic activists is not an infrequent theme in the Trump administration -- and not one I, or many other conservatives, particularly mind. CAIR has long been able to pass itself off as something analogous to the NAACP, something that should have elicited laughs from a media establishment that knew better. The administration managed to highlight that and yet again send CAIR into a tizzy. And for most people who aren’t politically active, they’ll merely see that Trump hosted an iftar dinner and stop there, not particularly interested in whether or not domestic groups like CAIR were invited (or even who CAIR actually is). So, Trump gets credit for the dinner among those with only a passing interest in politics, all the while throwing liberals into a fit and thus making his supporters happy. In other words, he wins on all three counts." • The Progressive Left should be getting used to President Trump's declarations of independence. He does not care about the Washington Swamp's usual list of invitees. He cares about America and sending the message that he will not be bullied into doing anything that he sees as sending the wrong message about the United States. • • • SENIOR SENATE INTEL COMMITTEE AIDE INDICTED. On Friday, the Daily Caller reported that : "Former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page was the primary target of a Senate Select Intelligence Committee (SSIC) staffer indicted for lying about his contacts with reporters, according to an indictment released on Thursday. James Wolfe, the former director of security for the Committee, was in contact with at least three reporters at around the time they published articles about Page, an energy consultant who is a central player in the investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government. Wolfe, 57, is charged with lying to the FBI during a December 15, 2017, interview about whether he knew the journalists and had contact with them on certain dates. • In one case, Wolfe denied knowing a reporter with whom he had been in a romantic relationship for four years. He is also charged with lying about giving that reporter, Ali Watkins, information about Page. The indictment cites one message that Wolfe wrote in December to Watkins, a former BuzzFeed reporter who now works for The New York Times. 'I always tried to give you as much information that I could and to do the right thing with it so you could get that scoop before anyone else,' Wolfe wrote to Watkins, whom he dated from December 2013 to December 2017." • What is not clear is why Wolfe singled out Carter Page for his leaks. Wolfe has worked for both Democrats and Republicans in his 29-year career. Perhaps it was because as the director of security for the Committee, he handled documents and contacted committee witnesses, putting him in frequent contact with Page, who was subpoenaed by the Senate Imtelligence Committee last October. For example, the Daily Caller points out that : "Wolfe handled court documents that ended up being cited in an April 3, 2017 BuzzFeed article written by Watkins that identified Page as “Male-1” in court filings in a Russian spy ring case, according to the indictment. The Senate panel received the documents from an executive branch agency on March 17, 2017, the indictment stated. That same day, Wolfe exchanged 82 text messages with Watkins on the day the committee received the Page documents. The pair had 124 electronic communications the day the BuzzFeed article was published." The Department of Justice (DOJ) seized Ali Watkins’s email and phone records as part of its investigation into the Wolfe leaks. She has not been accused of wrongdoing in the case and has denied receiving classified information from Wolfe. • In this case, the documents, or leaks about them, when they appeared in Watkins’s article, says the Daily Caller : "Marked a crucial development in the coverage of Page, who surged to notoriety in January 2017 when BuzzFeed published the unverified Steele Dossier. The 35-page document accuses Page of being the Trump campaign’s conduit to the Kremlin. Page has vehemently denied the allegation, and BuzzFeed has not produced any evidence supporting it. Watkins’s piece revealed for the first time that Russian agents reached out to Page in 2013 as part of an alleged recruitment attempt. Page was interviewed by the FBI about contacts he had with a Russian intelligence operative named Victor Podobnyy. Podobnyy was charged alongside two other Russian nationals with acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Russia. Page met Podobnyy at an energy conference in January 2013 and later provided him with academic papers he wrote about the energy business. Page has denied any impropriety and was not accused of any wrongdoing, but his association with the case has stoked the narrative that he was in contact with Kremlin operatives." • But, perhaps Watkins wasn't the only beneficiary of Wolfe's leaks. The Daily Caller states that : "Wolfe was also in contact with a reporter ahead of an October 17, 2017, report about a subpoena the SSIC panel issued for Page. And on October 24, 2017, he messaged the reporter, who is identified as female, that Page would testify in a closed hearing 'this week.' Page emailed the committee after being contacted by the reporter to complain about leaks from the panel. After the article about Page’s subpoena was published, Wolfe messaged the reporter who wrote that story, saying 'I’m glad you got the scoop.' 'Thank you,' the reporter wrote. '[Page] isn’t pleased, but wouldn’t deny that the subpoena was served.' The indictment also hinted Wolfe gave out information about Page to other reporters." • Wolfe, according to the Daily Caller, was asked whether he knew a reporter who wrote an article about Page during his December 15, 2017, FBI interview. Wolfe initially denied having contact with the reporter, but the FBI discovered he talked to the journalist at least five times between December 2015 and June 2017. That reporter’s article, which was written with two colleagues, is not identified in the indictment. The date of the article and other information about it is conspicuously absent from the court filings." • Of course, Ali Watkins is garnering sympathy from colleagues and the New York Times about having her phone and email records seiyed by the DOJ, whose investigators seized records from email accounts the reporter used while in college, according to the NYT. “Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy, and communications between journalists and their sources demand protection,” said NYT spokeswoman Eileen Murphy. BUT, says the Daily Caller, while studying at Temple University, Watkins helped write an article for McClatchy about CIA surveillance activities against the Senate Intelligence Committee. The article was published in March 2014, several months after Watkins and Wolfe began their relationship. • Ben Smith, the editor at BuzzFeed, defended Watkins’s reporting on Carter Page’s “Male-1” revelation : “I am baffled that the FBI and Justice Department are going to these dangerous lengths over a story that points to public court documents that describe Russian spies approaching a Trump advisor, who himself is quoted confirming his role in the episode,” Smith told the Daily Caller, which said that Smith declined comment on Watkins’s sourcing “in the middle of an unjustifiable leak hunt.” He did not address whether it was proper for Watkins to have a relationship with a Senate staffer on a committee she was covering. Watkins told BuzzFeed about her relationship with Wolfe, according to the NYT. • And, just so we know everything, Wolfe’s wife, Jane Rhodes-Wolfe, was an FBI official for 20 years until 2016. How's that for a double hit -- Wolfe could have been getting sweet FBI nothings from his wife and passing them on Watkins!. Who knows ! • • • PLEASE, NOT ANOTHER PETER AND LISA TALE. Aren't we are becoming a bit tired of Progressive Deep State leakers and peach-fuzz journalists sharing documents instead of batting their eyelashes at each other. • American Thinker's Richard Jack Rail got it just right on Saturday in his article titled "Nothing new under the Sun: The journalism-for-sex trade-off, revisited." Another Monica Lewinsky? Rail asks. "Kind of," he says : "The chick was, and maybe still is, a reporter for the New York Times, and it was a full-blown affair rather than one of those deals where she had sex with him but he didn't with her. This time around, nobody's trying to pass himself off as a victim of a stalker or her the victim of a predator or him a Harvey Wallbanger and her a naïf. It seems to have been a strict quid pro quo. He got access to a young female bod, while she got insider intelligence that made her light shine as a reporter. Stop rolling your eyes; it worked for a while. It's an old game that never fails a run by new players. Each generation thinks it's clever enough to avoid detection and, worse than detection, getting ratted out and, worse than getting ratted out, going to jail. Not likely, but possible." • Why do people put so much on the line for such superficialities? Rail says perhaps "they see themselves as stars in their own personal movies. James Bond and Mata Hari. This harmless little pretense keeps it exciting and fraught with meaning. They're saving the world by walking the tightrope between misguided law and their own higher loyalties, which as always turn out to be grubby self interest....Who does each imagine the other is during these sweaty encounters? His Brad Pitt to her JLo? His Bill Maher to her April Ryan?" But, as Rail points out : "Both end up losing, but you always suspect she lost more because she's young and hot and he's old and desiccated, his life -- at least, his professional life -- is dead, while hers still beckoned. Young and full of fire, she thought the world lay at her feet. If justice gets served, the rest of her life will be obscurity, like the black chick assassin in Kill Bill. Once you get addicted to life in the fast lane, the anonymity of suburbia is death." • • • DEAR READERS, maybe the leaker and the reporter really had something going for them. Wolfe told Watkins in one email : "I felt like I was part of your excitement and was always very supportive of your career and the tenacity that you exhibited to chase down a good story.” • I don't know how you feel about it, but for me, Bogart looking at Bergman in Casablanca and saying "We'll always have Paris" feels a lot more like romance. • The Wolfe-Watkins 'love story' reminds me of the Trudeau-Macron love-but-hate story. Both men are locked in a love relationship with the US, but it is also a hate relationship because they both know that the future of their countries' trade and security depends on the good will of the US. That same love-hate relationship exists for both men at home. Trudeau is not the most popular person in Canada right now. His aggressive Progressive agenda is wearing thin, according to Canadian polls. And, Macron has all of France up in arms, and some on strike, for one reason or another -- his agenda is so un-French and all-consuming that even his hand-picked Assemblée Nationale is "wearing out" from the onslaught of Macron reform bills. Yet, these two young politicians, whose countries do not fulfill their binding NATO treaty obligations but depend to a large extent on the US for their ultimate defense, presume to criticize President Trump for "isolating" the US from the world. They are in a lathery sweat over Trump's pulling out of the non-treaty, non-binding Paris Accords on the environment. And, now they seem to be unable to answer his objections to fair trade helping only them, not America. • It was reported on Thursday that Trudeau and Macron are not only stumped for trade words, they are angry. President Trump responded to that before even arriving in Canada for the G7 : "Please tell Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron that they are charging the US massive tariffs and create non-monetary barriers. The EU trade surplus with the US is $151 Billion, and Canada keeps our farmers and others out. Look forward to seeing them tomorrow." • Trump said pretty much the same thing in his press conference before leaving the G7 for Singapore. But, President Trump added at Saturday's press conference that he has good relations with everyone in the G7 group and that they are surprised that no American President has ever raised the matter of trade practices before. Of course, as Trump points out about many situations that radically disfavor the US, the trade imbalances should have been settled -- or never allowed to happen -- years ago. So, it has fallen to President Trump to make right what prior US Presidents ignored and let ride to keep their allies happy. • Why does the trade argument remind me of the Wolfe-Watkins love affair that steamed over a pot of bubbling and illegal leaks of undoubtedly classified information. Because, as President Trump said before landing in Canada : "Looking forward to straightening out unfair Trade Deals with the G7 countries. If it doesn’t happen, we come out even better!" But, Trump is a wise man. He has been negotiating almost longer than Macron and Trudeu have been alive. So, it is no surprise that Trump predicted tensions would ease and "we'll all be in love again." • Trump also sought to entice the participants with the prospect of transforming the G7 into a completely free-trade zone : “That’s the way it should be -- no tariffs, no barriers and no subsidies. I did suggest it, and I guess they’re going to go back to the drawing board and figure it out." • Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan -- all apply high tariffs to US goods, and it is probable that they have no interest in really free trade. Trump told them : “It’s going to stop, or we’ll stop trading with them." But, the President described his closed-door meetings with the six other leaders as : “not contentious. What was strong was the language that this cannot go on.” He insisted that the US is being victimized by trade deficits that hurt American workers : “We’re the piggy bank that everybody is robbing. And that ends." And, isn't it interesting that while President Trump is accused by the media of being a misogynist, it was the two women in the G7, Angela Merkel and Theresa May, who told the others to get to work and find a solution to the trade problems with the US. • President Trump is on the right track in supporting free trade only if it's a two-way street. And, unlike the rising unpopularity of both Trudeau and Macron at home, President Trump's polls are going up -- 52% of Americans approve of his economic policies, while only 41% disapprove. When we remember that just 16 months ago, the entire world was predicting the collapse of the US economy under newly elected President Trump, we would be foolish to bet against him on trade. Never underestimate Trump. He is a lot more like Bogart than Wolfe.