News Sips 1/27: The March for Life, Mexico’s Peril, Mr. Bannon’s Media, and the Putin-Trump Call
Here are the four things you need to know before your coffee gets cold, the January 27, 2017 edition:
March for Life in DC
Every year since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade, pro-life advocates have stormed Washington DC in the hundreds-of-thousands to pray, march, and express a view that the United States must become a nation that values and upholds the sanctity of human life. The peaceful, prayerful gathering on the national mall has been a rally when pro-life Presidents occupy the Oval Office and a protest when pro-abortion Presidents are in office.
This year, there is rekindled hope for life advocates who see a united Republican government and an opening on the Supreme Court (with, potentially, more to follow) as being an unprecedented opportunity to save the lives of the unborn and drastically curtail abortions (certainly elective abortion or abortions for convenience).
The President has vowed to stake out a pro-life agenda and Vice President Pence, a devout Christian, has been a stalwart defender of the unborn and the pro-life message. Despite the dearth of media coverage for an event that, annually, draws hundreds-of-thousands, you can expect the voices of the rally-goers to be heard among DC’s Republican establishment who have a singular opportunity to advance a pro-life agenda.
Following the President’s signing of an Executive Order instructing the Federal Government to begin construction of his much-vaunted border wall project, the President of Mexico issued a condemnation of the project and Mr. Trump’s values. Mr. Trump replied by telling the Mexican President that, if negotiations were going to be fruitless, to just cancel the meeting between the two that was to be scheduled next week. The Mexican President cancelled. Mr. Trump, through spokesman Sean Spicer, floated the idea of a 20% import tax on Mexican goods to finance the Wall later in the day.
It’s clear that President Pena Nieto is stuck in the “old way” of doing things and was unprepared for Mr. Trump to follow through on his campaign promises. Certainly, the President of Mexico will advocate on behalf of the Mexican people and put up a strong face. However, it is clear from the rhetoric coming from Mexico that they were anticipating someone like a Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton, a patsy of politics, rather than a bull that’s not afraid to charge into the existing world order like Donald Trump.
There is, of course, room to criticize Mr. Trump’s bluntness and actions so far. A border tax is more a tax on American consumers than Mexican companies. Likewise, using such blunt language openly could foment resentment in the Mexican people. However, anyone who understands basic negotiating between businesses understands what the President is doing. He is angling for the best position to discuss with the Mexican leaders going forward and laying claim to some high ground. While it’s unlikely that Mexico will ever be cutting a check to Washington for billions of dollars, there is likely to be a rapprochement between the two nations that will look conciliatory in the coming months. Certainly, if cooler heads don’t prevail, relations could deteriorate, but, this seems unlikely given the stakes involved.
Mr. Bannon’s Media
Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart and now a senior member of President Trump’s staff gave an interview to the New York Times, that, ostensibly, started out as just giving a comment about how well he thought the Administration’s Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, was doing on his first week on the job. Unfortunately, it seems that the reporter from the New York Times had other ideas and Mr. Bannon’s comments quickly became the story.
Essentially, Mr. Bannon informed the Times’ reporter that the media really should “shut up” and listen to what the Administration was saying. He went on to allege that the media, more-so than the Democrats, were becoming the President’s real opponents. Immediately, the press went into howler-mode and the boy-who-cried-wolf has returned.
Of course, for clarity’s sake, the rhetoric from the White House about an adversarial relationship with the press is nothing new. Here’s an example from the Obama Administration alleging FoxNews was the opposition: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/10/12/white-house-escalates-war-words-fox-news.html. Despite the “everyone does it” argument, Bannon’s harsh word choice certainly doesn’t do anything to un-ruffle media feathers. Over the past week, media outlets have been roundly criticizing every action taken by the President, even those not taken by the President (see: false reporting on the MLK bust).
If you’re a frequent reader here, you’ll know that there’s an ongoing trope we use about how the media is quickly becoming the “boy who cried wolf.” When everything is a scandal, it will lessen the impact when there’s an actual scandal. We also maintain the consistent thread that so much of the deterioration of journalistic integrity has come from the clickbait culture and the propagation of alternative news choices. If anyone expects for the current media battles with the Administration to diminish, they clearly don’t see how many clicks controversy generates as opposed to fair reporting.
Trump and Putin to Chat
According to media reports, the President and Russian President Vladimir Putin will speak by phone tomorrow. This will be the first time the two leaders have spoken since Mr. Trump’s inauguration. The call has been hotly anticipated by Mr. Trump’s critics on the right and the left who see Mr. Trump as being too cozy with America’s long-time rival. However, it is also being viewed as a potential to begin to repair the damage of the past eight years in American-Russian relations.
While the call will certainly be full of platitudes, the possibility that Mr. Trump will change course on Russian sanctions (put on Moscow following the annexation of Crimea and the downing of a jetliner in Ukraine) and being to ease tensions with the Kremlin. The Obama Administration’s haphazard approach to Russia (doing nothing about Syria but expelling alleged spies and diplomats after Russian hackers phished John Podesta’s email password) and Mr. Obama’s personal freezing out Mr. Putin from world affairs (see the G20 meeting in Australia) helped degrade the relationship between the two nations.
Hawks on the right and civil libertarians on the left have united to embrace America’s Cold War-era posturing about Russia. Some of Mr. Trump’s top advisers on the campaign and, now, in the White House, have struck a more conciliatory tone towards Russia. Despite warnings and handwringing from Congress, it is likely, at least for now, in Russia’s best interest to forge bonds of cooperation with the United States. Expect Mr. Trump to look for a way to strike a “grand bargain” with Russia that would allow the easing of sanctions while simultaneously securing Russian cooperation over fighting terrorism (and, the West hopes, an end to Russian meddling in Eastern Ukraine and the Baltic States). This will be a significant test for Mr. Trump who will not only need Moscow’s cooperation, but also the cooperation of members of his own Party, many of whom cut their teeth on the foreign policy of the last century and see no reason to think ahead to the challenges in the next.
Obviously, there are more things going on in the world, but these should be enough to get your day started.