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Updated: 2017-02-22T00:22:42.346-05:00


Cruising the Web


Mark Hemingway writes about the increase of anonymous sources being used in the media, particularly when it comes to covering the Trump administration.Flynn is just the most prominent and recent example of this media phenomenon. Anonymous sources have dominated media coverage of the Trump presidency, on topics ranging from the president's private conversations with the president of Mexico to the White House reaction to Saturday Night Live sketches. It's been the defining characteristic of Trump coverage so far. Some of this is par for the course for any new administration. But with Trump, the anonymity dial has been turned up to 11. And this for an administration doing plenty of radical or questionable things in plain sight that can be reported on with pungent on-the-record interviews.The media may protest that the Trump presidency is uniquely threatening and dishonest, and thus merits uniquely aggressive coverage, outside of the usual journalistic norms. But in so doing, they may paradoxically help him. Trump already won an election campaign in which his ostentatious denunciations of the dishonest media were a prominent themeGiven that a lot of the anonymous quotes could well be coming from career employees in the government who are appalled at working under a President Trump, we have no idea how much we should trust such leaks. We should all employ a healthy skepticism when we see stories that are composed of all or mostly all anonymous quotes.Whatever was behind the firing of Mike Flynn for National Security Advisor, I think the country and the administration are better off with Trump's choice to replace him, U.S. Army lieutenant general H.R. McMaster. McMaster sounds like a very admirable man with the background from being one of the key planners of the surge.After his success in Tal Afar, McMaster was among those who developed the surge strategy with General David Petraeus. Military journalist Thomas Ricks described McMaster as one of the "two most influential members of the brain trust" around Petraeus's planning for the surge. His reputation as a shrewd analyst of military strategy was boosted by the publication of his Dereliction of Duty. The 1998 book, which criticized the execution of the Vietnam War, focused particularly on mistakes made by President Lyndon Johnson, Defense secretary Robert McNamara, and the Joints Chiefs of Staff.Most recently, McMaster was involved on a government panel to study how the United States should respond to a newly mobilized Russian threat. His book, Dereliction of Duty, has suddenly become a best-seller on Amazon. I like the idea of having someone with the historical knowledge of what went wrong in both Vietnam and Iraq to be advising on national security. And now he's been part of a study group to figure out how to combat the rise of Russia's military action around the world.POLITICO has learned that, following the stunning success of Russia’s quasi-secret incursion into Ukraine, McMaster is quietly overseeing a high-level government panel intended to figure out how the Army should adapt to this Russian wake-up call. Partly, it is a tacit admission of failure on the part of the Army — and the U.S. government more broadly....McMaster’s response is the Russia New Generation Warfare Study, whose government participants have already made several unpublicized trips to the front lines in Ukraine. The high-level but low-profile effort is intended to ignite a wholesale rethinking—and possibly even a redesign—of the Army in the event it has to confront the Russians in Eastern Europe.It is expected to have profound impact on what the U.S. Army will look like in the coming years, the types of equipment it buys and how its units train. Some of the early lessons will be road tested in a major war game planned for June in Poland. Says retired Army Chief of Staff General Gordon Sullivan: “That is all designed to demonstrate that we are in the game.”I bet the Putin regime is not excited to see Flynn replaced with someone who has a background of trying to figure out how to conf[...]

Cruising the Web


Matthew Continetti explains the danger of having bureaucrats taking it upon themselves to impose their own view of how the government should operate.By any historical and constitutional standard, "the people" elected Donald Trump and endorsed his program of nation-state populist reform. Yet over the last few weeks America has been in the throes of an unprecedented revolt. Not of the people against the government—that happened last year—but of the government against the people. What this says about the state of American democracy, and what it portends for the future, is incredibly disturbing.There is, of course, the case of Michael Flynn. He made a lot of enemies inside the government during his career, suffice it to say. And when he exposed himself as vulnerable those enemies pounced. But consider the means: anonymous and possibly illegal leaks of private conversations. Yes, the conversation in question was with a foreign national. And no one doubts we spy on ambassadors. But we aren't supposed to spy on Americans without probable cause. And we most certainly are not supposed to disclose the results of our spying in the pages of the Washington Post because it suits a partisan or personal agenda.Here was a case of current and former national security officials using their position, their sources, and their methods to crush a political enemy. And no one but supporters of the president seems to be disturbed. Why? Because we are meant to believe that the mysterious, elusive, nefarious, and to date unproven connection between Donald Trump and the Kremlin is more important than the norms of intelligence and the decisions of the voters.But why should we believe that? And who elected these officials to make this judgment for us?Nor is Flynn the only example of nameless bureaucrats working to undermine and ultimately overturn the results of last year's election. According to the New York Times, civil servants at the EPA are lobbying Congress to reject Donald Trump's nominee to run the agency. Is it because Scott Pruitt lacks qualifications? No. Is it because he is ethically compromised? Sorry. The reason for the opposition is that Pruitt is a critic of the way the EPA was run during the presidency of Barack Obama. He has a policy difference with the men and women who are soon to be his employees. Up until, oh, this month, the normal course of action was for civil servants to follow the direction of the political appointees who serve as proxies for the elected president. How quaint. These days an architect of the overreaching and antidemocratic Waters of the U.S. regulation worries that her work will be overturned so she undertakes extraordinary means to defeat her potential boss. But a change in policy is a risk of democratic politics. Nowhere does it say in the Constitution that the decisions of government employees are to be unquestioned and preserved forever. Yet that is precisely the implication of this unprecedented protest. "I can't think of any other time when people in the bureaucracy have done this," a professor of government tells the paper. That sentence does not leave me feeling reassured.Continentti adds that we now have another system of government in addition to the system of checks and balances devised by the Founding Fathers.The second system is comprised of those elements not expressly addressed by the Founders. This is the permanent government, the so-called administrative state of bureaucracies, agencies, quasi-public organizations, and regulatory bodies and commissions, of rule-writers and the byzantine network of administrative law courts. This is the government of unelected judges with lifetime appointments who, far from comprising the "least dangerous branch," now presume to think they know more about America's national security interests than the man elected as commander in chief.For some time, especially during Democratic presidencies, the second system of government was able to live with the first one. But that time has ended. The two systems are now in competition. And t[...]

Cruising the Web


Gosh, has it only only been one month since Trump was inaugurated? Doesn't it feel like it's been months? It seems like every day there are several massive news stories, kerfuffles, scandals, outrages to get everyone all worked up. It's exhausting to try to keep up. Imagine how the politicians on Capitol Hill or the members of Trump's staff must feel.His press conference yesterday continued that pattern and condensed it all into 77 minutes. Fortunately, I was at work so I didn't have to watch it - just listen to excerpts on the news. It was entertaining and interesting - that's for sure. For anyone who thought or predicted that Trump would change once he became president, can now admit that the man will never change. What we saw in the campaign is the person we're seeing today. He had some news that he could have let be the major story and perhaps change the storyline from controversies surrounding his administration. Instead he ranted about the media over and over. Perhaps that appeals to his supporters. I know that I have no ability to predict accurately how people will react to Trump since I was wrong over and over again since he came down that escalator. A lot of those who voted for him hate the media so they'll be thrilled to listen to his attacks. However, if Trump wants to get reelected, he has to win over some of the people who didn't vote for him. He can't depend on running against such a damaged candidate as Hillary Clinton again. Remember that only a few thousand votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania moving the other way would have lost the election for Trump. He has to appeal to those voters with accomplishments, not rants about the media. Trump would do better to have more focus to talk about what he's trying to accomplish instead of distracting everyone with talking about the media. He should know that journalists can't resist talking about whatever he says about them and all other news will be lost amidst all the brouhaha over his words about the media. They're eternally solipsistic so they have trouble focusing on anything else if Trump says anything about them.Allahpundit borrows a metaphor to describe what Trump's press conference is like.I’ve mentioned it before but one of the best descriptions of a Trump presser I’ve read came early on in the campaign from Leon Wolf, who compared it to a military jet firing off “chaff” to divert heat-seeking missiles. There were so many colorful, noteworthy, ill-informed, sometimes flatly mendacious bits of news emanating from Trump every few minutes, Wolf noted, that when it was over commentators frequently wouldn’t know what to focus on. There were too many lights in the sky to find the most newsworthy targets. Today’s hour-plus presser was that all over again, except it was a presidential news conference and Trump was hitting on all cylinders, across an array of topics so wide that it felt like he touched on every major news story of the past three weeks. CNN was reduced to gawking that it was “a stunning moment in modern American political history.” Watching it and trying to pick out the newsiest stuff felt like playing an extremely advanced level of “Missile Command,” with stuff raining down faster than your eyes can follow. How do you make sense of Trump riffing on Flynn and Russia and the media and whether the people at Republican townhalls are “not the Republican people that our representatives represent” and about 15 other topics for 77 minutes? The only safe thing you can say about today’s spectacle, I think, is that it confirmed your view of Trump, whatever that view may be. If, like Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter, you’re a diehard Trumpist, it was Trump Woodstock. If you’re not, it was Altamont.Michael Goodwin in the New York Post thought that Trump's press conference will play wonderfully with his supporters.The president proved once again that he is the greatest show on earth. Lions and tigers and elephants are kids’ stuff next to his high wi[...]

Cruising the Web


What is worse about this story - that intelligence officials are taking it upon themselves to not give information to the commander-in-chief or that they're now leaking about it to the media?U.S. intelligence officials have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter.The officials’ decision to keep information from Mr. Trump underscores the deep mistrust that has developed between the intelligence community and the president over his team’s contacts with the Russian government, as well as the enmity he has shown toward U.S. spy agencies. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump accused the agencies of leaking information to undermine him.ReIn some of these cases of withheld information, officials have decided not to show Mr. Trump the sources and methods that the intelligence agencies use to collect information, the current and former officials said. Those sources and methods could include, for instance, the means that an agency uses to spy on a foreign government.I can't stand the way that Trump has blasted the intelligence services from the campaign through the post-election period to now as president. I can understand why they're wary of him. But I can also see why Trump is angry at all the leaks coming out the intelligence community. There is something so disturbing at how politicization has taken over everything, even agencies that should be totally nonpartisan. The story is chock full of anonymous sources. The only source named is Democratic Representative Adam Schiff who reports that anonymous sources have told him, as ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, about their concerns sharing information with the President.“I’ve talked with people in the intelligence community that do have concerns about the White House, about the president, and I think those concerns take a number of forms,” Mr. Schiff said, without confirming any specific incidents. “What the intelligence community considers their most sacred obligation is to protect the very best intelligence and to protect the people that are producing it.”“I’m sure there are people in the community who feel they don’t know where he’s coming from on Russia,” Mr. Schiff said.So how are we to judge a story based on anonymous sourcing and a Democrat's observations? I have no idea. William A. Jacobson points out at Legal Insurrection how little we actually know about connections between the Trump campaign/administration and Russia.I don’t know whether Donald Trump or his aides had any improper contacts with Russian Intelligence officers.Neither do you, or the media. The Intelligence Community might know, but they have provided zero facts either officially or through leaks to prove any improper, much less illegal, conduct took place.Instead, we have trial by innuendo based on there being “contacts” between Trump campaign aides and Russian intelligence.Here is what we don’t know even from the leaks as reported in The NY Times and CNN:Who had the contacts? With whom were the contacts? When did they take place? Is there evidence the campaign aides knew they were talking to intelligence officers. Were they talking about the campaign or unrelated business?And most important, What was said?We do know from the NY Times and CNN leak reporting of the leaks is that there is no evidence so far of any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.In this fact-free environment, imaginations and malicious intentions can run wild. We have round-the-clock media and social media speculation and frenzy throwing around terms like impeachment, treason, and so on.It is, in some ways, worse than harmful facts, because there is no clear accusation against which to defend, and no factual basis upon which the public can judge.If Donald Trump didn’t do anything improper or illegal, I think this will ultimately backfire on the inte[...]