Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Pope’s Knows

From ugly realities with serious political consequences hovering above the Trump administration from the Mueller investigation to unfortunate leaks of classified information (which the president has the power to declassify) in ways that prejudice field intelligence officers and threaten to compromise critical informants, provide vital information to our enemies and interfere with clandestine operations essential to our national security, Trump’s awkward incompetence and misplaced trust continues to suggest a rather significant and continuing threat to our country.
·         The leak to the Russian foreign minister and their ambassador to the U.S, (inside information on ISIS plans to use batteries in laptops to blow up planes).
·         Telling Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that we have two operational nuclear submarines in the Sea of Japan (where North Korea test fires its missiles). USA Today, May 24th.
·         And now, as the Scotland Yard is/was trying to identify all of the perpetrators in the Manchester suicide bombing, the British press reports that their Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, is publically slamming the Trump administration for prematurely releasing the name of the bomber to the American press.
As if Duterte and Vladimir Putin were America’s allies. “Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in Moscow on Monday [5/22] for a five-day visit that seeks to build relations with Russia and realign the Philippines away from the United States. In a speech before his departure, Duterte pledged his ‘firm resolve to broaden the horizons for friendship,’ and described Russia as a country with ‘strategic interest in the [Asia Pacific] region.’ Duterte is expected to ask Russia for precision-guided weapons to be used against the Islamist insurgency in the Philippines’ southern region.” The Cipher Brief, May 24th. Oh Donald?! Are you really that naïve or do you really believe these folks are our best friends? Did you know that Russia is opening a ferry service to North Korea…  Wonder how that submarine information became public?
Aside from his proclivity to tweet despite admonitions to the contrary from his senior staff, the Donald seems unable to contain his need to show world leaders how well-informed he is – his irrational and insecure braggadocio – notwithstanding the damage this dissemination of information does to how our allies trust us with sensitive intelligence, that informants in the field face death as our foes reverse engineer the information to trace the source or that our enemies are better prepared to sabotage our military’s efforts to keep us safe.
He seems equally convinced that he is so charming that he can convince world leaders with sincere and deep convictions that contradict his views to understand him as well as his vision and accept our policies accordingly. That notion seems to define his intentions on his recent trip… often with awkward results. For those that need something – like Saudi leaders in desperate need of an arms upgrade or an isolated Israeli government that is almost without any other allies anywhere – they will say and do what they have to in order to get what they want. But where that need does not exist, the Donald seems to have the opposite effect.
Donald Trump was met with a dour and unsmiling Pope as he entered the Vatican on May 24th. While the Pope obviously did not directly denigrate the President in this meeting, his facial expression (see below) says it all. 

Even in their private meeting, rather than sit side-by-side, the Pope sent a clear message by having Mr. Trump separated from his Eminence by a large wooden desk (pictured below)., May 24th, describes the meeting: “Pope Francis joined an international chorus urging Donald Trump to meet U.S. commitments on climate change in talks at the Vatican Wednesday [5/24].
“Francis gave the U.S. president a copy of his 2015 encyclical calling for urgent, drastic cuts in fossil-fuel emissions after a half-hour meeting in his private study… Francis’s choice of gift suggests he is adding his voice to those pressing Trump not to renege on the Paris accord, which is the cornerstone of global efforts to limit climate change. The Vatican said in a statement that the talks focused on international affairs and the promotion of peace, with particular emphasis on health care, education and immigration.
“‘Thank you, thank you,’ Trump told Francis as they shook hands after the meeting. ‘I won’t forget what you said.’ Trump has said climate change might be a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese… For his part, Trump gave Francis a special edition of the works of U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King…
“Francis arrived at the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in a Ford Focus and entered the building through a side entrance. Ten minutes later, the president’s motorcade was greeted by Swiss Guards who stood to attention with their halberds and ostrich-plumed helmets. The pope welcomed Trump upstairs in the Sala del Tronetto before the two leaders retired to his private study for a half-hour conversation.
“‘It was an honor to be with the pope,’ Trump told reporters later in the morning. ‘We had a fantastic meeting,’ he added, without addressing a shouted question on whether they discussed climate change.
“As well as the text on environmental protection, which Francis said he’s sent to all Roman Catholics, the pope also gave Trump books on family and the joy of the gospel… ‘I’ll be reading them,’ the president told him… [The Pope] also gave Trump a medal made by a Roman artist depicting an olive. The pope told Trump the olive is a symbol of peace… ‘That’s so beautiful,’ the president said. ‘We can use peace.’”
But that gift exchange could have been so much more awkward, as this tongue in cheek comment suggests: “To give the Devil his due Trump gave the Pope a nice gift, a set of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Complete Works, probably suggested by Ivanka when she saw that daddy planned to give him a signed copy of ‘Art of the Deal’ and a color map of his lamentable electoral college triumph.”, May 24th. Donald’s spin notwithstanding, it was pretty obvious that he did not have much of any impact on the Pope.
Yet Donald Trump is the President. He speaks for the nation; his words and actions carry a lot of weight. But even the leadership in his own party is seriously afraid of his presidency and how such ill-conceived efforts and public statements will impact their ability to maintain their majority in both Houses of Congress. We are watching so many GOP elected representatives walk back their commitments to the president. But so much damage has already been done and even if we reversed course now, it will take decades to right this ship after Mr. Trump leaves office.
I’m Peter Dekom, and running a country and managing international relations do not fare well with flawed assumptions and a tendency to shoot from the hip.

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