News Sips 2/20: Trump, Campaigning; Mattis in Baghdad; Larry Hogan, Trollslayer; and Revising the Immigration Pause
Here are the four things you need to know before your coffee gets cold, the Presidents’ Day, 2017 edition:
Trump Returns to Campaigning
On Saturday evening, President Trump returned to his element: campaigning. After constant criticism from the media and the “swampiness” of DC, the President was beaming being able to speak directly to his supporters without the filter of the “fake news” media.
Appearing without a tie and with Airforce One as a backdrop, the President arrived in Florida to give a campaign-style speech in a massive and crowded airplane hangar. It was the vintage Donald Trump that his supporters had known and had voted for in unprecedented numbers in November. In one interesting moment, the President, who had been watching the news coverage of the speech before he landed, found someone in the crowd who had said nice things about him on television. The President called the man up to the stage, telling the Secret Service that the man would be okay “because we know our own.” The man, clearly overwhelmed, hugged the President and said a few nice words, then returned to his seat. Mr. Trump, clearly seeing the nervousness of his protective detail, thanked the agents for indulging him in letting a random citizen up on stage with him.
The speech was nothing new for people who have been watching the President’s first month in office. It hit hard against the media, who Trump sees as being more of a threat than the Democrats, and described some of his policies. He also recapped just how much he had been able to accomplish in the few short weeks since taking power. While the President did strike out against the media, obstructionist Democrats, and activist judges, the speech was generally uplifting and positive (like most of his campaign speeches—if you watch a full Trump speech you understand that, despite using “dark language,” he is actively attempting to talk to people where they are and let them know that change is coming).
Mattis in Baghdad
Defense Secretary James Mattis has logged the most flight hours of any member of the new Administration since Inauguration Day. After a successful visit to Japan and South Korea, the former Marine Corps General traveled to Europe for a meeting with NATO allies and, just yesterday, arrived in Iraq for a surprise visit to the troops and logistical forces still stationed there.
Mattis arrived in Baghdad to discuss the ongoing effort to retake Mosul from the Islamic State and to reassure America’s allies in the region that the change in Administration would not mean a wholesale departure from the way the United States approaches international affairs. Most notably, Secretary Mattis pointed out that the United States has no intention of “taking the oil” from Iraq. This had been a line used by Donald Trump back during the early days of the invasion of Iraq. Mr. Trump, who has a long-standing opposition to the War in Iraq, insinuated that, if the United States were resolved to take military action against Saddam Hussein, the least it could do was take the oil as a means of payment for services rendered. This notion, though widely-criticized from a humanitarian perspective, has a more practical downside: it would likely cost more in terms of securing and extraction than it would offset in revenue.
There’s no evidence, and evidence to the contrary given Mattis’ denouncement of the idea, that the Administration plans an operation to secure and remove Iraq’s oil. Though Mr. Trump, with some truth, has noted that oil revenues from seized oil fields has been the backbone for the financing of the Islamic State. Mattis’ mission appears to be to smooth over any ruffled feathers in Iraq and meet with other envoys from local powers to make sure the United States can count on commitments going forward (Mr. Trump has already made it clear that he expects Gulf States to pick up significant slack in dealing with terrorism and for reaching a lasting peace deal with Israel—it’s unclear what bargain the President is looking to strike, but what is clear is that the President, given his approach to other countries, likely has put everything—from weapons to foreign aid—on the table to get other nations to agree).
Larry Hogan, the Trollslayer
Maryland’s General Assembly is still in session and, as predicted, Democrats are going after Governor Larry Hogan in any way they can. Whether it’s forcing energy prices up over the Governor’s veto, taking power from the Governor and encouraging the State’s Attorney General to make enemies in Washington, or criticizing his Facebook habits, it’s clear that Maryland Democrats are scared that Governor Hogan will win reelection and pursue a fair system of legislative and Congressional redistricting.
The newest criticism arises from the Trolletariate on Twitter and Facebook, the people who have little else to do than hurl rude, offensive, and foul comments at the Governor and his allies on social media. While some enjoy these platforms, and even have spirited debate, there are those bottomfeeders who have nothing better to do than attack and hurl invectives at well-meaning people. On Facebook, the Governor’s page has been the subject of constant attacks from trolls and spam and, in order to reclaim the discourse on his own page, comments have been deleted and offenders have been blocked.
As someone who has run a political page, it’s disheartening to see the absolutely vile things said about you or your supporters on Facebook and Twitter. The Governor, clearly in a more prominent position, must have it a thousand-fold. When you see little old ladies on Facebook being called terrible names and attacked for their support of the Governor, you know that the Governor is completely right to ban the offenders from his page. Moreover, given that it is, his page, there’s no “right” anyone has to be a jerk.
Ban away, Governor. You’re in the right.
Revised Travel Order
After a Federal District court’s decision to enjoin enforcement of a temporary immigration pause from seven terrorist hotbeds around the world was upheld on appeal, it looks like the Administration will be rolling out a revised version of the Order this week. The President has teased the release of the Order, while not conceding that the original version was wrong, since early last week.
According to early reports, it looks like the new Order will expressly exempt green-card holders and lawful permanent residents of the United States from extreme vetting procedures or the larger immigration pause. Draft versions of the Order circulating online do not expand the number of countries where immigration is being paused from the original seven failed states that are unable to adequately police who is getting onto planes bound for the United States (the principal justification in the selection of the countries). The pause would likely only be until new “extreme vetting” procedures are put in place.
As a note: discussion of pending orders is fraught with the potential of not getting the eventual story right. The only reason we’re talking about this proposed order is because the President has actually acknowledged that he’s working on it and that it would be rolled out this week. There have been other proposed memorandums and orders floating around the media that get reported as if they are policy (the LGBT protections rollback, a 100,000 National Guard call-up, and a deportation force, to name just a few). As with any new Administration, some policy proposals are written up for review, this doesn’t mean that the Administration will adopt them, or even consider them (in the case of the LGBT protections rollback, the Administration did the exact opposite, for example). It’s important that media sources not rush to publish things that are merely early-stage drafts written by staffers. It’s irresponsible and only seeks to enflame an already precarious dialogue in the country.
Of course, there are more things going on in the world, but these should be enough to get your day started.