Getting His Way

That’s the way to end the week. President Trump said that he was just kidding. There’d be no massive tariffs on anything and everything that comes here from Mexico. US automakers would have the parts they need to build their cars and trucks here at the same price as before – they wouldn’t have to jack up their prices or shut down their assembly lines. There’d be tomatoes and avocados and all sort of fresh fruit in the stores, just as before – lettuce wouldn’t be three hundred dollars a head. Trump’s no dummy. He couldn’t let that happen – and hours earlier the jobs report had been awful – the trade war with China had a lot of people out of work. Each side was slapping intentionally painful tariffs on the other side, designed to put people out of work, to punish the other side. We’d put a whole lot of Chinese out of work. They’d be sorry. They put a lot of Americans out of work. We’d be sorry – but of course no one was sorry. The talks had stopped. Which economy would grind to a halt first, and then collapse? No one knew, but more and more people were no longer working at anything.

This was not the time to so the same thing with Mexico. President Trump did what he had to do. He didn’t really say he had been kidding about those tariffs. That would make him look like a jerk. He decided to say that Mexico had given in and those sneaky little bastards had given him everything he had wanted. He won. He had thoroughly humiliated them, although it didn’t seem that way:

President Trump announced Friday night that a deal was in place that would avert threatened tariffs on imports from Mexico in exchange for that country’s taking “strong measures” to curb the influx of Central American migrants at the U.S. southern border.

The agreement, which came just two days before Trump had vowed to impose a 5 percent, across-the-board tariff on one of the United States’ top trading partners, called for the Mexican government to widely dispatch its National Guard forces to help with immigration enforcement, with priority in the south, on its border with Guatemala, according to a joint statement.

In addition, the two countries would expand a program known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) created this year that allows the United States to return Central American migrants to Mexico while they await the adjudication of their asylum hearings in U.S. immigration court, a process that can take months.

Wait, Donald Trump has been shouting for days that unless Mexico immediately reduced the number of border crossings to zero – none at all, ever again – he’d destroy their economy with massive tariffs – and he might keep those in place even if Mexico did exactly what he wanted. A twenty-five percent tariff on everything from Mexico, forever, would mean everything that is made there or grown there soon would be made or grown here. That’s nonsense. Wrangler can make their jeans in Vietnam. But that plays well with his base. Trump will make Mexico, and Mexicans, disappear. Who needs them?

But this victory wasn’t much of a victory:

The expansion of the MPP program could result in tens of thousands of migrants waiting in limbo in potentially unsafe conditions in Mexico. MPP already has faced legal challenges, and while a federal appeals court panel in San Francisco has allowed it to temporarily continue while it reviews the policy, some judges have indicated that the MPP program might not be constitutional.

That has to do with treaty obligations. Ratified treaties are the law. The Constitution says so. Previously ratified treaties regarding amnesty agreements on protocols and rules are the law. This won’t be easy from Trump, but that’s okay:

“I am pleased to inform you that The United States of America has reached a signed agreement with Mexico,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “The Tariffs scheduled to be implemented by the U.S. on Monday, against Mexico, are hereby indefinitely suspended. Mexico, in turn, has agreed to take strong measures to stem the tide of Migration through Mexico, and to our Southern Border.”

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador tweeted about the deal shortly after Trump, adding that he would still hold a planned rally in Tijuana on Saturday meant to “defend the dignity of Mexico.”

Andrés Manuel López Obrador wasn’t feeling humiliated, because the one thing Trump wanted Trump didn’t get:

At the State Department, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told reporters that the deal did not include a provision pushed by the Trump administration, known as a “Safe Third Country” agreement that would have required asylum seekers to apply for refugee status in Mexico before reaching the United States, since it also is considered safe for asylum purposes.

“I think it is a fair balance because they had more drastic measures and proposals at the start and we reached a midpoint,” Ebrard said.

And that, in turn, called for a bit of damage control:

In his initial threats, Trump said Mexican authorities must block all unauthorized immigrants from entering the United States, but acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said the administration was looking for immigration to decrease by a “significant and substantial number.”

Privately, Mexican negotiators told the Trump administration that the steps they were proposing could reduce unauthorized crossings to the levels of last fall, when an average of about 60,000 migrants were apprehended each month. White House officials, however, pushed for guarantees that the number would fall to about 20,000 a month, a historical low that was achieved in the first few months of Trump’s tenure.

That was close enough to zero for Trump, on a day when the data now showed more and more jobs disappearing perhaps forever. Say you won and move on. No one will notice.

Andrew Sullivan will notice. He thinks Democrats are blowing it on immigration:

They seem unable to attack Trump for his colossal failure in his core campaign pledge. The ads write themselves. Obama kept illegal immigration to consistent lows, using existing law. Trump is presiding over the biggest influx since the very beginning of the millennium, and acting like a panicked autocrat… He has made things even worse by cutting aid to the very countries that are losing their populations to America….His record is a miserable festival of incompetence and sadism, a wide open vulnerability.

Yeah, yeah, Democrats should do something, but Kevin Drum is having none of that:

Democrats have offered up comprehensive immigration plans many, many times. Republicans wouldn’t accept them in the Bush era, they wouldn’t accept them in the Obama era, and they won’t accept them now, in the Trump era. Hell, Pelosi and Schumer were ready to give away the store to Trump a year ago, but it went nowhere for the usual reason: Republican leaders are never willing to stand up to their extreme nativist wing. Marco Rubio found that out the hard way.

So there’s really no point to any kind of detailed plan, especially when you’re competing with someone who just bellows “Build the wall!” and then calls it a day.

And this time Trump bellowed that he had won and that Mexico had been humiliated and gave in to everything – and then he called it a day, and a week.

But he did get his way on one thing:

Multiple US embassies were denied permission by the Trump administration to fly the rainbow pride flag from their flagpoles to commemorate LBGTQ Pride Month, two senior State Department officials told CNN Friday.

Embassies are required to get permission from the State Department when flying anything besides the American flag on their main flagpoles.

At the US Embassy in Berlin, which was one of the locations denied permission this year, flying the rainbow flag in the month of June had previously been simply “a routine thing that happens every year,” one source said.

“It’s always accepted,” the source said, adding that the embassy had asked to fly the flag just during the city’s Pride Week, at the end of June.

That isn’t going to happen, not ever again, in spite of this:

The ambassador at that embassy, Richard Grenell, is gay and an advocate for LBGTQ rights around world. He said they will “hang a huge banner on the side of the Embassy” and host multiple events during Pride Month…

In a statement that reads like a most diplomatic rebuke of what seems to be a new policy, Grenell said, “The President’s recognition of Pride Month and his tweet encouraging our decriminalization campaign gives me even more pride to once again march in the Berlin Pride parade, hang a huge banner on the side of the Embassy recognizing our pride, host multiple events at the Embassy and the residence, and fly the gay pride flag.”

When asked if Grenell was annoyed that they had been denied permission to fly the flag from the flagpole, the State Department source replied with an emphatic “yes.”

“His take now is basically, okay, then we’ll fly it inside the embassy, we’ll fly it from the window, we’ll fly it from the balcony, and everywhere else,” the person said.

Richard Grenell will probably be fired soon. Trump will get his way:

White House officials barred a State Department intelligence staffer from submitting written testimony this week to the House Intelligence Committee warning that human-caused climate change could be “possibly catastrophic” after State officials refused to excise the document’s references to the scientific consensus on climate change.

Someone broke the rule. Do not EVER mention science, but that’s not easy:

The effort to edit, and ultimately suppress, the written testimony of a senior analyst at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research comes as the Trump administration is debating how best to challenge the idea that the burning of fossil fuels is warming the planet and could pose serious risks unless the world makes deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade. Senior military and intelligence officials have continued to warn climate change could undermine America’s national security, a position President Trump rejects.

That sort of thing needs to be nipped in the bud:

According to several senior administration officials, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk about internal deliberations, Trump officials sought to cut several pages of the document on the grounds that its description of climate science did not mesh with the administration’s official stance. Critics of the testimony included William Happer, a National Security Council senior director who has touted the benefits of carbon dioxide and sought to establish a federal task force to challenge the scientific consensus that human activity is driving recent climate change.

Administration officials said the White House Office of Legislative Affairs ultimately decided that that [Rod] Schoonover, [who works in the Office of the Geographer and Global Issues], could appear before the House panel, but could not submit his office’s statement for the record because it did not, in the words of one official, “jibe” with what the administration is seeking to do on climate change.

And on the other side:

Francesco Femia, CEO of the Council on Strategic Risks and co-founder of the Center for Climate and Security, questioned why the White House would not have allowed an intelligence official to offer a written statement that would be entered into the permanent record.

“This is an intentional failure of the White House to perform a core duty: inform the American public of the threats we face. It’s dangerous and unacceptable,” Femia said in an email Friday. “Any attempt to suppress information on the security risks of climate change threatens to leave the American public vulnerable and unsafe.”

Perhaps so, but Trump got his way on this:

Schoonover, who served as a full professor of chemistry and biochemistry at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, could not be reached for comment Friday, and the State Department referred questions to the White House. A White House spokesman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations, said in an email, “The administration does not comment on its internal policy review.”

And there was what Trump had said a few days earlier:

President Trump has been steadfast in shrugging off the warnings from scientists about the potential impacts of climate change, reiterating in an interview with Piers Morgan on “Good Morning Britain” this week that he does not regret pulling the United States out of a 2015 global climate accord aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

“I believe that there’s a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways,” he said.

And who was going to argue with him? What’s the point? He does get his way:

A last-minute push by automakers appears unlikely to sway the Trump administration from abandoning President Barack Obama’s signature climate policy to improve mileage standards for cars and light trucks, two government officials said Friday.

The administration’s plan to freeze federal fuel-efficiency requirements for six years and end California’s authority to set its own standards has injected uncertainty into the auto market and raised the prospect of a drawn-out legal fight between federal officials and the nation’s biggest state.

The automakers say please, don’t start a fight with California over this. We won’t know what we can sell. We won’t know what to build. Trump is angry the people in California didn’t vote for him and at anything that has to do with Obama, so that’s the automaker’s problem and not his:

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department are poised to finalize a proposal this summer that would set federal car standards at roughly 37 miles per gallon, rather than raising them to nearly 51 miles per gallon for 2025 models. The rule would also revoke California’s existing waiver to set its own rules under the Clean Air Act, a practice the federal government has sanctioned for decades.

That did fix the smog problem out here. Trump wants that problem to come back, as punishment, and there’s no point in talking about it:

On Thursday, 17 U.S. and foreign firms sent a letter to both President Trump and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), urging them to “resurrect” talks to avoid harming the industry and American consumers. They warn that only a nationally agreed-upon set of rules would avert “an extended period of litigation and instability, which could prove as untenable as the current program.”

But White House officials rebuffed the automakers’ request Thursday, saying there was no prospect of further negotiation with the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The two government officials, who were briefed on the discussions, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations.

They won’t talk to California, not now, not ever again, so this will remain unresolved:

Administration officials say that the nation needs to readjust the emissions targets because consumers prefer bigger and less fuel-efficient vehicles than regulators initially envisioned and that keeping them in place will spur Americans to drive older, less safe vehicles.

But California leaders show no signs of budging.

“Despite the White House’s rejection of the automakers’ appeal, we stand with those automakers, other states, and environmental leaders in pushing for one national standard – one that doesn’t backtrack on the progress states like California have made in protecting the climate and our kids’ health,” Newsom said in a statement Friday.

Well, that’s just too bad:

In 2009, the Obama administration reached an agreement with automakers and officials in California to establish the first-ever carbon standards for the vehicles. Limiting cars’ carbon output and improving fuel efficiency reduces the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, helping to curb the pace of climate change.

In February, CARB officials said the administration had broken off communications before Christmas and had neither responded to the state’s proposals nor offered one of its own.

An aide to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) said that the state was still committed to defending the standards that California, automakers and the federal government agreed to back in 2009. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have signed on to adopting whatever tailpipe standards California sets.

Obama had it worked out. The states and automakers agreed. There’d be one standard, tough enough to keep the air in California and a few other problem states breathable. Everything was settled. Everyone knew what the rules were and knew what to build. But that was Obama and that was California, the state where the Republican Party had died and next to no one had voted for Trump. They’ll pay for that, and Trump is getting his way on something else, with help from a friend:

A raft of legislation intended to better secure United States election systems after what the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, called a “sweeping and systematic” Russian attack in 2016 is running into a one-man roadblock in the form of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

The bills include a Democratic measure that would send more than $1 billion to state and local governments to tighten election security, but would also demand a national strategy to protect American democratic institutions against cyberattacks and require that states spend federal funds only on federally certified “election infrastructure vendors.” A bipartisan measure in both chambers would require internet companies like Facebook to disclose the purchasers of political ads.

Another bipartisan Senate proposal would codify cyberinformation-sharing initiatives between federal intelligence services and state election officials, speed up the granting of security clearances to state officials and provide federal incentives for states to adopt paper ballots.

But even bipartisan coalitions have begun to crumble in the face of the majority leader’s blockade.

McConnell is just staying out of trouble:

Mr. McConnell has long been an implacable foe of legislation that mandates disclosure or limits on political donors. Critics charge that he may have another reason to stay on the sidelines: not wanting to enrage President Trump, who views almost any talk of Russia’s success as questioning the legitimacy of his 2016 victory.

Trump gets his way again, and Jonathan Lemire and Kevin Freking note the implications of that:

Halfway through a summer set of four international trips, President Donald Trump has proven himself to be an impolitic guest, soaking up pomp and pageantry while leaving behind hosts he scorched despite their best efforts to favor the president with flattery.

Trump on Friday wrapped up five days in Europe that, much like his stay in Japan two weeks earlier, showed how his “America First” foreign policy mixed with his “Me First” Twitter habit have made him an unpredictable partner for America’s allies, who continue to grapple with how to manage the president and fortify economic and strategic ties with the United States.

Time after time, diplomatic niceties fell by the wayside as the president contradicted and undermined his hosts.

“Not only has Trump been ungracious on these trips, he is losing credibility with his behavior,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. “No world leader can trust President Trump because at any moment he may shatter the glass right in front of him; a single whim, or tweet, could upend a deal that had been months in the making. He leaves world leaders wiping their brows and wishing for him to leave.”

That’s because he expects to get his way, but Alexandra Petri sees a way out of this:

The 2020 election is lurching toward us like a malfunctioning robot, and I think we must ask ourselves: Can we risk nominating a man for president?

Men selected as major-party nominees for president have failed to win the popular vote 50 percent of the time. Contrast that to the 100 percent of the time that a female nominee for president has won the popular vote.

More importantly, are Americans ready to withstand another four years of male presidency?

It is unpleasant to traffic in stereotypes, and many men are in no way like this, but recent experience teaches that for usually 31 days a month (sometimes 30, occasionally 28), a male president will fall victim to irritability and irrationality that causes him to embarrass the nation abroad and make emotional decisions not based on math or information. It is good he thinks he is capable, and dreaming big is, of course, to be encouraged for all children! But we must not avert our gaze from the results.

There’s Trump, and there are others:

Male presidential candidates are noted for their inexplicable and sudden desires to do irrational things, such as assassinate Alexander Hamilton, create the Bull Moose Party or be John Edwards. And once they’re in office, this behavior continues. Sometimes, for no reason, a man will decide to throw himself a Teapot Dome Scandal or a Bay of Pigs, or decide to do things to the Philippines that we have yet to adequately reckon with as a country…

There is just too much at stake to risk nominating the sort of person who, time and time again, has proved unable even to serve in a state legislature without becoming helplessly derailed by the desire to regulate a stranger’s uterus.

Of course, not all men fall into these broad categories! Some men are just weird about having one-on-one dinners with powerful women such as Angela Merkel or Theresa May, which will make it difficult for America to further its interests.

Yes, Mike Pence will not meet alone with another women for any reason. He will keep himself pure. He’ll ask his wife to tag along. Impeach Trump and get Pence. But forget men:

Men have had their chance. Let us not risk four more years of this.

That’s a thought, but Donald Trump is who (and what) we’ve got at the moment. And he does seem to get his way. Perhaps he stays for another four years, but does he always have to get his way? That’s something to consider.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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