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Inside Politics: Through Kootenai County's looking glass

By now the foreign policy resolution from the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee has probably achieved notoriety rivaling Lewis Carol’s famous novel. As a progressive, the statements that flow from the Republican Party have often defied common sense for me, but lately things seem to be getting curiouser and curiouser almost daily. This time Kootenai Republicans condemned Idaho’s federal representatives for increasing sanctions on Russia for interfering in our 2016 election.

The Kootenai GOP Bureaucracy’s (KGB’s?) resolution this week seriously disoriented me. It would be so nice if something made sense for a change. Remember this is Idaho, the most conservative state in America. You remember conservatism? Our ultimate shield against the relentless Russian threat? Better dead than red? Off with their heads! Somehow Kootenai Republicans decided our Congress and Senate unfairly disciplined our president’s new well-meaning best friend, Russia.

That’s the same Russia that: hacked our election and meddles across Europe; invaded and annexed Crimea and Georgia; is working to destabilize and overpower the Ukraine; bombed the freedom fighters in Syria; blackmails Europe over petroleum and natural gas; continues to strong-arm Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania; denied orphans access to adoption; perfected the modern concept of oligarchic kleptocracy; is the world’s money launderer via its criminal banks and oligarchic enterprises.

The globalist over-reach noted above was apparently insufficient to register with the Kootenai Republicans’ learned 20 (of 38), whose resolution instead chastened the U.S. Congress and Senate to adopt “an anti-globalist, America-first foreign policy orientation.” It sounded an excellent plan, no doubt, and very simply and neatly arranged; the only difficulty was, that they had not the smallest idea how to set about it.

It wasn’t clear what place Kootenai’s learned 20 perceived our current foreign policy prioritized America. Second? Seventh? Ninety-ninth? Perhaps the K-20 will specifically clarify that. Or maybe I’m just blind to our leaders’ lack of devotion. But I nearly forgot. You must close your eyes, otherwise you won’t see anything.

When I read Betsy Russell’s stellar reporting of this Republican resolution I thought this must be impossible. I have to admit, though, Republicans often challenge Democrats and progressives to believe impossible things. Why sometimes we’ve been expected to believe six impossible things before breakfast! Only two Senators and three Congressmen of 535 voted against increasing sanctions on Russia. That’s something nearly impossible these days that was a comfort to witness.

Bjorn Handeen, the K-20 resolution’s sponsor, lamented that he and others of like mind “missed the boat” on opposing the Iraq War, and that largely prompted his and the K-20’s current indignation. Let’s clarify what I think that means in non-historical-revisionist dialect. When the drumbeat for the Iraq War against the country that didn’t attack us was at its loudest, Republicans like Handeen relentlessly impugned the wisdom and patriotism of those voices opposing war.

That choice ultimately destabilized not only the Middle East but the entire world. Many scholars have judged it the worst foreign policy decision in modern history. So, let me dare to question the wisdom of a right-wing Idaho real-estate agent regarding foreign policy, even if he does patronize “antiwar-com” (Handeen’s favorite blog — which required annotating in Russell’s story for anyone to recognize).

Mr. Handeen asserted, “It’s traditionally understood that sanctions are the first step towards war.” I’m willing to bet that the 500-plus congressmen and senators who voted for the sanctions would be quick to correct him on that. Invading neighbors, hacking elections, enabling international criminality via money laundering, propping up despots, breaking weapons agreements, making pawns of orphans — those are the first steps toward war. Sanctions are cages built to restrain the dogs of war. When it comes to preventing war it is better to be feared than loved.

It may hurt the feelings of Kootenai Republicans who backed this so-called anti-globalist resolution to be informed it will have absolutely no impact whatsoever on Sens. Risch’s or Crapo’s voting. But everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it. This experience may help them develop empathy for Idahoans that are routinely ignored by their Republican elected officials regarding existential issues affecting them every day of their lives — issues like earning a living wage, access to health care, avoiding bankruptcy, 21st century educations for our youth, protecting voting rights, safeguarding water quality, encouraging and facilitating renewable energy development, ending Idaho’s war on women’s rights, religious exemptions for child neglect, protecting access to public lands, etc. Sadly, the list is huge.

As you might recall Alice also had an experience with tea party thinking, reminiscent of the K-20’s grandiose resolution-making. Remember the passage?

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.

“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.”

“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “It’s very easy to take more than nothing.”

The K-20’s resolution amounts to less than nothing. What they very successfully accomplished was to generate yet another national story that makes a laughing stock of Idaho and discourages recruitment of desireable industries, businesses and employees from settling here. Idaho has an entire warren of its own rabbit holes to find its way out of. We don’t need Kootenai County’s upside-down-arm-chair foreign policy gurus digging more of them for us to fall into.

Other View: Here's hoping Kelly can curb Trump's worst Twitter habits

Jennifer Rubin

WASHINGTON — Even some in the administration dearly wish President Donald Trump would stop tweeting. That’s unlikely to happen, but perhaps the new White House chief of staff, John Kelly, can reduce one category of tweets—those taking the place of a presidential directive or more formal executive order.

Take, for example, Trump’s much-criticized tweet announcing a ban on transgender personnel in the military, including expulsion of those currently serving. Peter Feaver smartly observes in Foreign Policy:

“Any policy change in this area will be litigated in the courts—so before deciding and announcing a proposed policy, the administration should subject it to extensive legal review. So far as I can tell, there are no reports that the new policy was vetted in this way. Given the heartache that the administration has suffered on its various travel ban policies, it is mind-boggling that the White House would make the same mistake again. . . .

“Any policy change in this area should also be backed up by careful policy review. In fact, the administration was in the first month of a six-month review designed to get the information needed to make sound policy on this matter. If the president wants to short-circuit his own review, he can do so, but he should have a compelling explanation for why.”

In fact, from what we know, Trump was simply trying to throw a bone to the Freedom Caucus, irate over the military paying for gender-reassignment surgery. (Do these congressmen not have actual issues to worry about?) Trump doesn’t seem to understand that, as president, his words and tweets have legal implications (as he found out in the travel ban litigation) and real-world ramifications (lowering morale and unit cohesion, straining military-civilian relations, etc.).

If Kelly can at least obtain agreement from Trump that new policies, directives, orders, etc., will not be disseminated by tweet, that would eliminate the scramble to explain and implement (or ignore) the president’s outbursts, thereby preserving some sense of calm in the administration. That’s the easiest category of tweets to attack, and perhaps Kelly should stop right there.

Trump’s tweets fall into three other categories, which generally inflict harm on him personally and diminish his stature but do not set the wheels of government spinning.

The first is the kind of tweets containing threats, insults and attempts to bully others, including Trump’s own attorney general, Jeff Sessions. All these tweets do is make the president look petty and small. Having survived a Trump tweetstorm and derived a great deal of public support, Sessions arguably came out stronger, with more job security than he had before Trump’s temper tantrum. Trump will either learn that he loses in these exchanges and should stop such tweeting, or he keeps diminishing his authority. (We’d be content either way.)

The next category of tweets are the Russia scandal missives. They often create new legal problems (e.g. witness intimidation), contradict Trump’s or his staff’s initial spin or simply evidence a high degree of panic. In offering a window into his mind, the president provides the special counsel and his team with new ammunition and possible avenues to pursue every day. If Trump’s lawyers cannot stop him, Kelly likely cannot either. To the extent that these tweets actually prove helpful to the special counsel, we think the more the merrier.

Finally, the last category of tweets are those that reveal Trump’s ignorance, abject dishonesty, ludicrously false boasts, crudeness and political impotence (as when he insists that the Senate do something, only to be ignored). This is where he reveals his TV habits, his penchant for conspiracy theories and his lack of connection to the real world. Here, too, Kelly won’t be of much help. Trump, true to his narcissistic personality, refuses to believe that these tweets cast him in a negative light. Ah well, tweet away.

In short, Kelly may be able only to curtail tweets that cause executive branch employees and the military to react. That would be positive and reduce the chances of serious miscalculations, international incidents and the like. But if Kelly cannot stop the rest of Trump’s repertoire, that might be just fine from his critics’ perspective. Democrats are already beginning to make the case that Trump is unhinged and unstable:

Trump remains his own worst enemy.