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citizenshipThere are many grounds to criticize the immigration order, but a Muslim ban it is not.

The order is harsh, ambiguous, and appears to have had inadequate internal review before being published.  Moreover, the idea itself is a blunt, likely ineffective or counter-productive policy tool. But it is not a Muslim ban.  Reporting it that way undermines credibility of the very institutions whose credibility is needed to hold the Trump administration to account.

The order should have a sunset provision, provision for the screening of friends and such as translators for the State Department and military, and should move from blanket ban to individualized, careful screening as quickly as possible.

Criticism of the order is justified, but it should focus on the actual flaws, better alternatives, and avoid hyperbole.

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trump-vs-chinaThe first casualty of Trump’s withdrawal from TPP is not trade – it’s trust. China is the beneficiary.

History may record that the American Century ended in the Pacific today with TPP.  China is poised to become the axis about which all other Asian countries must revolve – economically, politically and militarily.  America has left the stage.

It’s no surprise that dependability doesn’t figure in Trump’s transactional world view. He built an empire by repeatedly, publicly walking out on his commitments. And, as he will tell you, that’s how he won.  Q.E.D.

TPP was not a great deal. It should not have been signed. But it should have been renegotiated. The strategic value to America of Pacific prosperity and stability would have been enormous. The loss will reverberate down through history, and will be seen as a fateful turning point for Asia and for Pax Americana generally.

If there’s any hope, it’s that Trump’s withdrawal may be a negotiating position, not a final answer.

American First, but How?

600px-flag_of_the_united_states-svgHow will Trump act out his slogan, “America First”?

There are two broad possibilities, one transactional, the other strategic.  The transactional stream views each choice as a zero-sum game.  When one country gains an advantage, another loses.  The strategic stream seeks opportunities for mutual gain, sees peace and prosperity beyond our borders as good for America too, and considers whether both short and longer term consequences will be good for us.

Here are some examples:

TRADE

Transactional

  • We win if we maximize our exports and minimize our imports
  • We win if we exclude goods that can be made domestically

Strategic

  • We win if we maximize trade volume balanced equally
  • We win if we achieve full employment domestically, even if we import at high volume
  • We win if we and other countries have stronger economies, rising wages and improving working conditions

NATO

Transactional

  • We win if we have a strong military
  • Allies must take care of themselves, and be no burden to us
  • If our allies need help, we will be there if we see it as in our interests to do so at the time.

Strategic

  • We win if we and our allies all have a strong military
  • When our allies are strong, it’s good for us.
  • If our allies need help, they can rely on us 100%.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Transactional

  • We can weather the storm at home, if it comes
  • Drill, baby, drill

Strategic

  • Instability beyond our borders is a threat to us
  • We can prosper by developing and selling the energy solutions of tomorrow

ISRAEL

Transactional

  • Israel right or wrong

Strategic

  • General peace and prosperity for all is good for us and good for Israel

So the questions is not, America First or World First.  The question is, which vision of America First really does put America first?

In the wake of Trump’s dangerous electoral potency, win lose or draw, the unsolved question is, what can legitimate politicians do?

First, diagnose the problem.

Misdirection is at the heart of it. From the Koch brothers, to Rush and O’Reilly, to Trump, the false message is, blame the guy lower on the social ladder than you – Mexicans, Muslims, Chinese, etc. Pay no attention to the elites who captured all the wealth created in the past 20 years. It’s the guy crawling up the ladder from under you who is your enemy – the dirty immigrant who may be a lurking terrorist, the foreign laborer more desperate and more willing to work for low wages than you. That guy is the cause of your problems. Sure, Walmart’s got a shitty job for you, and that’s the best you can find, but pay no attention to why all you’ve got is a shitty job. Instead, watch out for that filthy Mexican, who will gladly take that shitty job in a heartbeat.

It’s classic misdirection.

Marxists have long understood that global worker solidarity was an essential ingredient if working people were to get a fair slice of the pie. The super rich understand this too – which is why they funded culture wars and welfare wars to distract working people, and when those staples of Republican strategy started to lose potency, they told you to blame Mexicans and Muslims for your trumped up troubles.

Our legitimate politicians have to have the courage to point the finger at the very rich hands that feed them – or else we will have another Trump, and he’ll win the election. That shitty job at Walmart has to be linked to that shitty job in a Chinese iPhone factory or lithium mine. They’re the same raw deal, caused by the same global power brokers. Our trade deals must link together the interests of workers, not erect barriers, so both Chinese and American workers see their wages and conditions brought up together, and producers can’t move from country to country in search of ways around sharing the profits.

The only true thing Trump has said is to point the finger at Wall Street. They are in on the deal. But the other targets – Muslims, Mexicans, women, Chinese, and others – they’re fellow victims of a rigged system, and our politicians need to say so.

donald-trump-sexist-comments__optYour daughter will be at new risk for sexual predation, assault or even rape if Trump is in the White House.

Trump’s election would give license to your daughter’s boss, teacher, boyfriend, husband, or any man in a position of celebrity or power, to do what Trump does. Trump’s election would put your daughter at risk because it would loudly say to other young men that this society not only tolerates sexual predation, but celebrates, enables and even ennobles those who prey on women.

Trump is no mere philanderer, adulterer or admirer of women. Adultery is, after all, a consensual act. He is a repeat sexual molester who boldly confessed to making a habit of sexual assault and battery (which, under the law, means unwanted physical contact).

It’s not just his own admission – others accuse him of sex crimes, too (see https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/20/donald-trump-sexual-assault-allegations-jill-harth-interview). Strange reversal, isn’t it, when a sexual super-predator brags of his own guilt, and the victims’ statements are merely the corroborating evidence?

Serial sexual predators such as Trump should be on trial for their crimes, not in the Oval Office.

Brexit and Mob Rule

UK and EU politicians should ignore the Brexit referendum for what it is – a non-binding expression of opinion at a point in time.

Cooler, wiser, heads should prevail. Representative democracy has two words for a reason. We expect elected representatives and the institutions of government to provide stability in the face of the whims of the day and the emotions of the mob.

That is not to say politicians should ignore the results. There is discontent. However the hammer of Brexit is not the only tool in the chest. It is the only policy tool to reach the voters, many of whom cast votes of protest, knowing that Brexit is a singularly bone-headed, impractical and dangerous solution. Many will have voted Leave, anticipating it could never happen.

The UK should not trigger article 50. The EU should not force the issue. As one diplomat put it, “If they treat their referendum as a non-event, we will also treat their referendum as a non-event.”

That is the wiser course of action.

With the Republican Party unraveling, now is the time for the Big Tent of the Democratic Party to get bigger – to welcome in all Americans, especially main street, home town, traditional Republicans.

We have much in common – A distaste for incivility and vulgarity, a tradition of working together towards the common good, a history of compromise, policy driven by a vision what’s best for America, not merely what’s best for partisan electoral strategy, a working knowledge of history, respect for institutions, the Constitution, our international partners and allies, our treaty obligations, the full faith and credit of the United States, and more.

Sure, there are differences, but on what matters most, perhaps there’s more that unites than divides. Many Republicans will find their party’s nominee is far more alien to them than are many moderate Democrats.

Hillary should reach out to Republicans, as cabinet members, as voters, and possibly even consider a Republican as a running mate.