British Breakfast and Euro-punditry

 

POUTS* has gone abroad to terrorise some other people and won’t be able to play much golf for a bit. Sad!

The places he’s visiting are liable to offer him varying welcomes now that his loose tongue has compromised intelligence-gathering, particularly in the fight against ISIS.

But he will be warmly welcomed at least in his first port of call, as Patrick Cockburn lugubriously observes:

Trump badly needs a success. His three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, before going on to Israel, gives him just such an opportunity. He will probably be able to announce a $110bn weapons sale to the Saudis and emphasise that this means more jobs back in the US. He will be given a welcome of imperial splendour in Riyadh, where there is to be an “Arab Islamic American Summit” and two other summits attended by dozens of Muslim leaders. The message is that the US and Saudi Arabia are at one in confronting the evil Iranians.

Events planned for the multiple summits in Riyadh are pretentious and reek of hypocrisy. One of the most distasteful, called “Tweeps 2017” and to be held in the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, is designed to appeal to Trump’s addiction to Twitter. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and King Abdullah of Jordan will be there, and there is to be a series of panels on the social media.

This is happening in a country notorious for jailing anybody tweeting the mildest criticism of the government. Amnesty International reports that “the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) in the capital, Riyadh, sentenced journalist Alaa Brinji to five years in prison and a fine, followed by an eight-year travel ban, for comments he posted on Twitter”. In Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, critical tweets lead to draconian sentences, ensuring that Twitter is no longer the public forum it was in 2011.

The phoneyness and extravagance of the events in Riyadh are strongly reminiscent of the infamous celebration of 2,500 years of the Iranian monarchy held by the Shah in Persepolis in 1971. The aim was to put on display the achievements and power of Iran under the Shah, whose officials assembled even more royals, presidents and prime ministers in Persepolis than the 55 leaders and representatives gathered in Riyadh this weekend. It did not do him a lot of good when seven years later, after his overthrow, almost all his ungrateful guests rejected his pleas for a place of refuge.

Christoph Scheuermann also looks at some of his other stops:

Donald Trump really hates traveling. The many people, the unfamiliar food, the foreign culture. He likes to stay in familiar surroundings, his daughter Ivanka once said, in Trump hotels and Trump golf clubs, and watches football in the evening. His journey, beginning today in the Middle East, is the journey of a man who has never been interested in the world.

On his journey, Trump will give two major speeches, in Riyadh and Jerusalem. He wants to show that he can be presidential, that he has the world under control, that he can leave the Russia affair behind him. In Riyadh, he will talk about Islam, which is awaited with great tension. The speech is being prepared by Trump hardliner Stephen Miller, who has already choreographed the ban on immigration by citizens from Muslim countries. Trump had also claimed in the election campaign: “Islam hates America.”

In Israel , a mixture of skepticism and hope awaits him. For months Trump has been talking about creating peace in the region – a deal that has failed generations of diplomats. The problem is that nobody knows what Trump wants and what he stands for. On the one hand, he has appointed as US ambassador to Israel a man who has supported the radical settler movement in the past. On the other hand, he is surprisingly positive about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The best explanation is: Trump is not interested in how peace comes about, which gift he thinks he will definitely present to the people.

Trump’s staff will sell the trip as a success if he does not make a blunder, does not deviate too often from the script and does not have too many new enemies at the end. Expectations are already lower than for any previous president.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, the above piece in a German newspaper suggests that the G7 summit Trump is due to attend is in Sicily. Since the G7 summit is actually in Hamburg, this piece of disinformation may be designed to confuse Trump about his sleeping arrangements even further. Adrian Arab explains the current mystery surrounding them:

For some time there were speculations about where Donald Trump will be staying in Hamburg during the G-20 summit on July 7th and 8th. Already in April it was clear that Hamburg is going to be difficult. For the luxury hotel “Vier Jahreszeiten”, which was favored by Trump, had already refused his booking, the “Hamburger Abendblatt” reported .

Supposedly Trump had found an alternative: according to “Abendblatt” information should be noted that the Berlin “InterContinental”  will accommodate Trump. But from the hotel near the Berlin Zoo came a denial. “Usually, we do not comment on our guests – in this case we say clearly: No, he does not staying with us,” said a spokeswoman.

If Trump stays in Berlin, he automatically decreases the chances of informal talks between him and other leaders at the hotel bar. Almost all of them stay in Hamburg – 9000 rooms will be booked from 6th to 9th July. Chancellor Angela Merkel will check in with her delegation at the hotel “Atlantic Kempinski”, the Chinese in the “Grand Elysée” at the Rothenbaumchaussee and the Saudis at the “Westin” in the Elbphilharmonie.

However, the same fate as Donald Trump has come to another state leader. Vladimir Putin also tried to book a room in the “Vier Jahreszeiten”, according to Abendblatt’s information. He was not successful and was still looking for a hotel.

Before he goes to the G7, there’s also a visit to NATO. It’s already been reported that people have been briefed to keep their speeches short so that Trump doesn’t get bored, but here’s a piece from Martyn McLaughlin about the fallout from Trump’s intelligence indiscretions and what will come of them there:

If you close your eyes and catch a strong northwesterly breeze, you might just be able to hear the grinding sound emanating from Vauxhall Cross. While outbreaks of bruxism have been sporadic at the headquarters of M16 over the years, a full-blown epidemic has developed since last November’s US election, as security operatives gnash their molars following the latest catastrophe across the Atlantic.Even by President Donald Trump’s meagre standards, his decision to shoot his mouth off about highly classified intelligence in the presence of Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US, plumbs new depths.

The inglorious episode makes two things abundantly clear. Firstly, it offers resounding proof that Trump’s uniquely toxic blend of carelessness, impulsiveness, and vanity renders him the gravest danger to his own country. He may have the power to declassify whatever information he wants, yet lacks the responsibility to make the necessary judgments. Secondly, after just four months of his presidency, the historic alliance of Britain, the US, and their three fellow members of the Five Eyes intelligence network is in serious danger of collapsing.In hindsight, it seems optimistic, if not hopelessly naive, to think of how we searched in vain for a label to anticipate the hallmarks of the Trump administration. It would, many posited, herald an unprecedented merger of state and corporate power; others thought it would pursue a populist economic nationalism. Neither prediction was rash or misguided, yet neither were they true. Both made the mistake of assuming Trump has a plan of any kind. They were expressions of hope rather than expectation.
All of which should make Trump’s itinerary over the next week particularly interesting. In what will be his first foreign foray, he is due in Saudi Arabia this weekend, travelling on to Israel before meetings with Nato leaders and the G7 summit. There will be stern words exchanged behind closed doors.You can be sure that everyone in attendance, with the notable exception of Trump, will choose them wisely.

He’s also visiting the Pope, but perhaps more significant for US-Vatican relations is the new US Ambassador, Callista Gingrich. Die Welt reports:

The story is more than a footnote in fast-paced Washington. It begins on 18 August 2000. Callista, born Bisek, married Newt Gingrich at that time. The prominent Republican is a typical Southern baptist, she is a convinced Catholic. He is known as the former spokesman for the US Congress (1995-1999). The woman by his side is, until then, an untitled page. But she has influence. Especially on Gingrich’s faith. Nine years later the prominent Republican entered the Catholic Church.

Callista’s sense of sentiment may be a reason why the Trump government was considering early the 51-year-old for the coveted post of the US Ambassador to the Holy See . On Friday evening, just a few days before Trumps’ visit to Franziskus , it became official: the White House confirmed the nomination of Gingrich.

The musical Callista, who also plays on the French horn, in addition to singing and piano, went into politics after graduation as an intern. Until 2007 she worked in the Committee on Agriculture. Not exactly the resume for an ambassador to the Vatican.

But ultimately it is about the contacts. And those the diplomatically inexperienced can certainly bring to the Holy See.

Winters tells an anecdote about how a former Vatican ambassador was summoned by the Cardinal Secretary to an emergency meeting. If she could use the phone on his desk, she asked. Two minutes later she had the then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the line. This is what the Vatican expects from an ambassador, concludes Winters. And for this, the well-connected Callista is likely to be fully equipped.

While he’s away, of course, investigations continue into Trump, much of which we’ve already seen reported in the WaPo and other American organs. But here’s a report of something which hasn’t appeared in the US media (at the time of writing, anyway) by Luca Ciarroca:

The impeachment of Donald Trump is approaching apace. After the midterm elections of 2018, the worst US president of all time will hand over to his deputy Michael Pence . An easy prediction? Yes, given that, although slowly, the truth is coming to light : Trump’s affiliate partners are convicted Russian and Mafia-style oligarchs. This could put the former casino operator back in a guilty position for a series of serious allegations.

The first episode of this series of investigative reports , produced by Zembla [a Dutch documentarty-maker], succeeds in doing what no US television network has yet done: to undertake an in-depth analysis of ties with organized crime between Trump and his partners in the management of various properties . The links between Trump, Generous Kushner, Netanyahu, Putin , Chabad Sect , Diamond King Leviev, and many other similar characters are documented with impressive accuracy, with a set of charts, interviews, court documents.

The video highlights another remarkable detail: Trump’s former political mayor, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani , has helped create an ad hoc bank account for the purpose of recycling money through a company in the United States Netherlands. The figure: $ 250 million , coming from Bayrock. Everything documented.

Is it the beginning of the end for the American superpower and its out of control capitalism without restraint? We’ll see. Certainly one like Trump was not to be elected to the White House. Now everything is going wrong and complicating global geopolitics.

That last paragraph alludes to an anti-Americanism which is often found in Italy. Some Italians take this so far that they see Trump as an ally. I’ve already introduced you to the extraordinary Giampaolo Rossi, but now you should read his stablemate Marcello Foa:

Trump appears normalized, swallowed by the establishment. And suddenly Russiagate disappears from the front pages, loses intensity and importance. The president announces the withdrawal of the Nafta Free Trade Agreement, but after a few hours everything remains, confirming his acceptance. The revocation of  Sacramento is reversed with the assent of the Republican Party.

Then, however, something happens. Trump is thinking about it, or at least proves to be taking some space, especially diplomatic. After meeting with the Chinese leader XI with whom he establishes a great personal relationship, he actually overrules the State Department, deciding on his visit to the Pope on May 24 alone and, above all, starting a dialogue with Moscow, talks on the phone with Putin and receives the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov at the White House.

The establishment does not like it and starts to shake. Internal polemics resurface, the newspapers begin to describe a split and chaotic White House. When the president decides to dismiss FBI Comey’s head, the Deep State declares a new and probably definitive, war on  Trump. Following the dictates illustrated by Obama’s former advisor, Kupchan, who called for media and public opinion, the friendly press, or the New York Times and the Washington Post, faded on indiscretions and revelations that were heavy, insinuating and, as always, anonymous, but of secure source: secret services, members of the Administration. The other media amplify. And hysteria mounts.

And now? A long-running critic of US policy, unsuspected because he represents the American Left, Dennis Kucinich, reads the situation with great clarity. Remember he has nothing in common with Trump, but in an interview with Fox News, he thinks this campaign is pretext.

“If the information was so sensitive because it was passed to the Washington Post?”

He asks. It’s still:

“” Something is out of control. There is an attempt to break the relationship with Russia. (…) We need to ask: why is intelligence trying to subvert the US president with these leaks? (…) Look, I’m in disagreement with Trump on many issues but there can be only one president on this and someone in the world of secret services is trying to overthrow this president in pursuit of a political line that puts us in conflict with the Russia. The point is: why? And who? We need to find out. “

Kucinich is almost certainly right. Any pretext is useful to pursue the ultimate goal: overruling the will of the people, hunting Trump and maintaining power in the hands of the establishment, within which the political differences between the right and left are annulled, and which governs the US from the Kennedy era.

Foa believes that it’s all a plot to install Pence. Oliver Georgi doesn’t necessarily believe that, but thinks that if he does succeed to the Presidency, he’ll have a huge task:

On Thursday evening, Donald Trump for once said something very true: “The United States is a “divided, confused, non-united country,” he said at a joint press conference with Colombian President Santos in Washington.
Trump (once again) could not be more wrong: it is not the establishment of a special investigator in the Russia affair that “hurts America”, but Trumps unprecedented, chaotic presidency. Above all, however, it is the uproarious “witch hunt” rhetoric of Trump and his “movement”, whose divisive power each new defense attempt only increases.

Should Trump fail or even fall early, he will become a martyr for many of his followers; another victim of the “swamp” in Washington, who successfully resisted his “draining”. Worse still, Trump will have bathed in dragon blood for his fans – and with him, perhaps, will also disappear his view of politics as a big business, where a good deal is more important than morality and righteousness.

The greatest test for America may not be Donald Trump – but the skill of his successor in the Herculean task of reuniting the nation. 63 million Americans voted for Trump in November, and most of them are not radical right-wingers, but  representatives of a deeply insecure stratum that feels disconnected and ignored by the elites. Giving back the lost confidence in the “system” is a challenge that is not measured in weeks and months, but in years.  Who could lead America after Trump? Not only many Republicans have long hoped for Vice-President Mike Pence , who also enjoys a partly hymnic worship in many Trump supporters…. Pence has been remarkably quiet in these chaotic days. An increasing number of Americans, not only in Washington, are hoping that he is getting ready to hit the ground running.

Le Monde has a bit more on the Trump supporters’ views of the scandals:

But in the opposite camp, that of the conservative press or pro-Trump who carried the billionaire to power , it is a completely different story. President Trump can “find shelter on the right, ” summarizes the New York Times , where the “collective judgment” of the Conservative media, the Republican Party and the voters of Mr. Trump is trying to sweep away the suspicions weighing on the president. For this, they use several tactics, according to the liberal daily: the Pavlovian reflex to shout “fake news” , as Mr. Trump himself so often on Twitter , designate another culprit or simply change the subject.

The media are obviously the first accomplices of this conspiracy against the president. Sean Hannity, a star presenter of Fox News, spent the entire week devoted to Donald Trump’s business. But by systematically turning the situation around, with great help from pro-Trump guests. He described on Wednesday an “alliance to destroy Trump” . The day before, he was interviewing a former editor of Breitbart News, a site close to the far right and founded by Steve Bannon. Sebastian Gorka then asked: “When will all this stop? (…) When will we stop endangering national security and doing real journalism?

A Republican strategist interviewed by the New York Times , Alex Castellanos, explains that Mr. Trump’s voters, who wanted to see the ” system” reversed , do not see  the allegations against Trump as evidence that they were wrong — quite the opposite. “When he is attacked, it validates the idea to his supporters that he is the only one who can protect us from the media elite, ” he explains. For most Loyalists, the question is not whether the Trump Presidency is chaotic or not, but whether anyone else could change things as drastically as he promised.

One of the other shady characters active on Trump’s behalf is the odious Richard Spencer, who is well known to Martin Gelin:

In March last year, Richard Spencer arranged a conference for American nationalists in an office building in Washington DC, a stone’s throw from the White House. Trumps face shone from a big screen in the corner of one room, but it was still far from clear that Trump would become the Republican presidential candidate, even less the next president.

Interest in Spencer’s right-wing business was then quite limited. I was one of half a dozen journalists on site and in total there were almost 100 people who went there for the event. In an interview, Spencer told me that he most viewed Trump as a megaphone for ideas that have long been accepted by the outermost right. Spencer described Trump as a rather banal figure, who did not really seem to understand the ideological depth of the right-wing nationalism he flirted during the election campaign. But for Spencer and his comrades in the so-called alternative world, the informal movement of young right-wing extremists whom Spencer turned out to be unofficial leaders, did not deny that Trump was an unusual asset. With Trump as president, you could begin a long-term project to spread nationalistic ideas all over the world. The real goal was, according to Spencer, to save the white race from a safe fall.

“Trump is the first presidential candidate specifically for the interests of white Americans,” Spencer said.

In the interviews I’ve done with Richard Spencer since 2014, he has consistently described himself as an intellectual creator who sits above the trivial jaws of daily politics. Since he started a debate site called Alternative Right, he has become a self-appointed leader for this loosely defined collection of mostly younger right-wing activists who call themselves all right. The movement includes everything from radical system-critical libertarians to neo-Nazis and teens who most consider it a fun hobby to harass the left-wing people on social media.

Ideologically, Spencer has long been more inspired by European philosophers and political thinkers than politicians at home in the United States. The high-extensional nationalism that Spencer promotes led a peripheral existence in the United States before Trump’s election campaign. Several of Spencer’s colleagues in America’s organized alternative world, like Jared Taylor, long described the United States as a hopeless market for their openly xenophobic ideas. In an interview I did with Taylor 2014, he spoke that a nationalist party in the US could get one-fourth of the votes in a national election. But two years later, Donald Trump succeeded in winning a presidential election with an outdated nationalist agenda. Spencer now feels he has the wind at his back for nationalist and often openly racist ideas. It is with this political energy that he arrives in Sweden to launch a new phase in the right-wing internationalism of right-wing extremism.

Spencer has long talked about Putin’s Russia as a model. He describes Russia as the only country that advocates white nationalism right now. His goal is long-term idea creation, rather than engaging in political campaigns. In our previous interview, Spencer said:

“I do not really care much about political choices. I’m not looking for political office, but I want to gain influence first and foremost. The goal … is to change the culture itself. And it takes time. It always takes time. But my goal is that in ten or twenty years, all that I say to you here, whatever media in the United States thinks is controversial or extreme, are such obviousities that people almost get angry when they hear a politician say that.

I’m finishing this week with another interview with a Trump supporter — Nigel Farage. I intend to devote most of next week’s diary to the British election, in which Farage isn’t standing, but he recently gave an interview to Die Zeit which is a) hilarious and b) already translated into English by the paper:

ZEIT ONLINE: Mr. Farage, parliamentary elections are to be held in your homeland in just a few weeks. Why are you sitting here in Brussels in your British socks instead of helping out with the Brexit negotiations back home?

Nigel Farage: If the British government had asked me to help them in any way with Brexit, I would have done that. But of course, they wouldn’t. They will always hate me. They will always see me as an outsider. They will never forgive me for being successful. I don’t mind.

ZEIT ONLINE: Why did you meet with Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London?Farage stops for a moment to think. Following his visit to the Ecuadorian Embassy not long ago, he told reporters directly after his meeting with Assange that he could no longer remember what he had done in the embassy.

Farage: Oh, for journalistic reasons.

ZEIT ONLINE: What? Because you want to write a story about the WikiLeaks founder?

Farage: For journalistic reasons. I will not say anything more about that. But I did it for journalistic reasons, not for political reasons.

ZEIT ONLINE: What do you mean when you say, “journalistic reasons?”

Farage: I will not say anything more about that. If you look at what I do today, I used to do politics 100 hours a week. But now I do politics for 40 hours a week, so I have got a lot of time to do other things. I am a Fox News contributor. I am an LBC presenter. I write.

Farage’s press spokesman interrupts the interview. He says that the interview had actually been arranged to discuss trade relations between the EU and the UK. Neither he nor Farage, the spokesman says, want to talk about Farage’s connections to the WikiLeaks founder or to Russia.

ZEIT ONLINE: You once said you admire Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Farage: In 2013, as a political operator, he was the best in the world. Yes, this is what I said. But I wouldn’t like to live in his country. I didn’t like a lot of things he did. But as a political operator, he is to be admired.

ZEIT ONLINE: One of Russia’s foreign policy goals is dividing and weakening the EU. Could it be that in the case of Brexit, you were directly or indirectly used for this Russian goal?

Farage: It is obvious that the EU wants to expand to the east and threatens Russia. That’s completely mad.

ZEIT ONLINE: What you say isn’t true. It wasn’t the EU that triggered the revolution in Ukraine, but the Ukrainians who wanted better relations with the EU.

Farage: I want the EU to be destroyed and it doesn’t matter if God or the Dalai Lama wants it as well. The EU is an anti-democratic, failing structure. You know, you are the first person who has asked me if Russia supported me. Maybe you have a special German mindset. No other journalist in the world has asked these questions.

ZEIT ONLINE: I just want to understand your role.

Farage: We have no links to Russia.

ZEIT ONLINE: You didn’t meet with the Russian Embassy’s deputy chief-of-mission in London?

Farage: Nope.

ZEIT ONLINE: Not in 2013, before the Brexit campaign was conceived?

Farage: Ah, hang on. He came to the EP office. Or I met with him in London. So what?

ZEIT ONLINE: Why did you meet with him?

Farage: I think you are a nutcase! You are really a nutcase! Brexit is the best thing to happen: for Russia, for America, for Germany and for democracy. And that’s the key point.

Farage’s press spokesman again interrupts the interview. He says that the interview should focus more on trade relations between Germany and the UK. Farage nods.

The whole thing is a scream. Compared to Spencer, who really is a sinister and dangerous man, Farage is almost as clownish as Trump.

But there are a lot of dangerous people around these days. Trump appears to me to be holed below the waterline, and I’m not at all sure that he’s going to be able to do very much of what he wants to do. But he may well be strongarmed into doing things other people want him to do, and those other people are not at all pleasant, since a lot of them are Republicans.

The priority for non-Congressional Democrats is to organize, register people to vote, and build up the campaigns to oust the Republicans. Those in Congress have to resist Trump as well as the awful bills the other side are putting forward, but those outside need to be putting in the work to swell their ranks come November 2018.

 

  9 comments for “British Breakfast and Euro-punditry

  1. JanF
    May 21, 2017 at 8:32 am

    HAHAHA!!

    [The] piece in a German newspaper suggests that the G7 summit Trump is due to attend is in Sicily. Since the G7 summit is actually in Hamburg, this piece of disinformation may be designed to confuse Trump about his sleeping arrangements even further.

    I am watching tRump’s tRip via Twitter and it is quite comical. The little curtsey he gave the Saudi king and the sword dancing – good lord, he is a clueless twit.

    Thanks for all the commentary. I will have to return to read it later.

  2. WYgalinCali
    May 21, 2017 at 11:10 am

    Thanks for the info from the other side of the world, Michael. I share your sentiments as to what needs to be done to salvage our democracy. Our senators and congressmen need to stop the worst of the legislation and we, the people, need to sign up voters and get them to the polls (either in our Mercedes or not). Farage and tRump could be cut from the same cloth.

    Farage: I think you are a nutcase! You are really a nutcase! Brexit is the best thing to happen: for Russia, for America, for Germany and for democracy. And that’s the key point.

    Off to finish my coffee and breakfast.

  3. bfitzinAR
    May 21, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    Thanks for triple duty, Michael – and you got it. Dems in Congress need to block whatever is blockable and Dems not in Congress need to concentrate on circumventing voter suppression laws (and gerrymandering), registering voters, running Dems in as many races as possible, and GOTV. That’s our only way out of the toxic garbage dump.

  4. Philly76
    May 21, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    Thanks Michael I am Imaof on the G7 summit

    • bfitzinAR
      May 21, 2017 at 3:26 pm

      {{{Philly}}} – have you been able to contact jan4insight over at DK?

      • Philly76
        May 21, 2017 at 7:54 pm

        No I have been ban

  5. Batch
    May 21, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Hi meese…Thanks for the post as always Michael…Breakfast looks as scrumptious as ever but I’m getting peeved I can’t partake…:)

    • bfitzinAR
      May 21, 2017 at 3:28 pm

      {{{Batch}}} – myself I like the breakfast nook better than the breakfast. :) – either way, it’s a long trip over blue water to get there. moar {{{HUGS}}}

  6. MomentaryGrace
    May 22, 2017 at 10:44 am

    Late comment is late, but I really appreciate the efforts, Michael. Fascinating as well as educational. I’m dizy from headshaking.

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