Friday, March 9, 2018

Last Call For Nixon In The Bunker

Donald Trump isn't talking to paintings yet, but as Gabe Sherman of Vanity Fair tells us, he's decided that the problem is everyone in the White House who isn't him, and it's time to take out the trash.

With the departures of Hope Hicks and Gary Cohn, the Trump presidency is entering a new phase—one in which Trump is feeling liberated to act on his impulses. “Trump is in command. He’s been in the job more than a year now. He knows how the levers of power work. He doesn’t give a fuck,” the Republican said. Trump’s decision to circumvent the policy process and impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum reflects his emboldened desire to follow his impulses and defy his advisers. “It was like a fuck-you to Kelly,” a Trump friend said. “Trump is red-hot about Kelly trying to control him.” 
According to five Republicans close to the White House, Trump has diagnosed the problem as having the wrong team around him and is looking to replace his senior staff in the coming weeks. “Trump is going for a clean reset, but he needs to do it in a way that’s systemic so it doesn’t look like it’s chaos,” one Republican said. 
Sources said that the first officials to go will be Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, both of whom Trump has clashed with for months. On Tuesday, Trump met with John Bolton in the Oval Office. When he plans to visit Mar-a-Lago this weekend, Trump is expected to interview more candidates for both positions, according to two sources. “He’s going for a clean slate,” one source said. Cohn had been lobbying to replace Kelly as chief, two sources said, and quit when he didn’t get the job. “Trump laughed at Gary when he brought it up,” one outside adviser to the White House said. (The White House declined to comment.) 
Next on the departure list are Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Trump remains fiercely loyal to his family, but various distractions have eroded their efficacy within the administration. Both have been sidelined without top-secret security clearances by Kelly, and sources expect them to be leaving at some point in the near future. One scenario being discussed is that Kushner would return to New York to oversee Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign with his ally Brad Parscale, who was hand-selected by the Trump family. One Trump friend referred to it as a “soft landing.” Ivanka will likely stay on longer, perhaps through the summer, before decamping home to New York to enroll the children in a Manhattan private school. Both are presumed to remain in close contact with Trump, who often places significant value on the opinions expressed outside his administration, anyway.

I'll believe it when I see it, but if Trump has decided he can now do whatever he wants to and will no longer even pretend to listen to anyone but himself, the chances that he fails catastrophically are extremely high.  Good news for Democrats in November, bad news for America and everyone living there. 

If this is all true, then we're already seeing "nothing to lose" Trump in action with North Korea and trade tariffs, and at this point if Trump figures he takes a big enough gamble he can avoid the Mueller axe by making a big enough move to win everyone over and save the GOP, who will then be so grateful to him that they will end the investigations.

The reality is that Trump will come ever closer to making a fatal miscalculation that could pretty much wreck everything.  If he's listening to people like John Bolton's Mustache, we're all in for a world of hurt.

We'll see.

Soccer It To Me, Cincy, Con't

The saga of FC Cincinnati's new stadium needed to secure its place as an MLS expansion team got very interesting this week as Ohio's existing MLS team, the Columbus Crew, is looking for the exits to send the team to Austin but is running headlong into the Modell Law.

Columbus Crew SC majority owner Anthony Precourt's focus is now zeroed in on one site for a Major League Soccerstadium in Austin, Texas. 
Precourt, CEO of Precourt Sports Venture, wants to move the team to Austin and announced Thursday afternoon he would focus his efforts on Austin-owned McKalla Place. 
The site is nowhere near downtown Austin, where Precourt said he wanted a stadium. He has asked for a Downtown stadium in Columbus, too, having said Mapfre Stadium north of Columbus is too far away. 
While the site selection is good news for Austin soccer fans, it is yet another blow to #SaveTheCrew efforts to keep the team in Columbus, where Precourt's company and Major League Soccer are being sued to keep the team from moving. 
On Wednesday, Precourt and MLS officials issued a statement saying they were disappointed in the city of Columbus and the state for filing a suit on Monday to keep the Crew SC from moving to Austin. The city and state are citing the "Art Modell Law," which was named for the then-Browns owner who relocated the NFL team to Baltimore in 1996. 
The law says that owners whose teams use tax-supported facilities and accept financial assistance from the state are prohibited from moving to another city unless they give at least six months' notice and give individuals who live in the area an opportunity to purchase the team. 
On Thursday, Precourt said he is still interested in having his team "integrate into the heart and soul of the Austin community." 
"We’ve heard the concerns about a possible site for a stadium," Precourt said. "Soccer is inclusive and celebratory, so we want to shift the focus onto the long-term benefits of a location that works for everybody."

This is the real reason MLS is putting its expansion plans on hold for now, they want to know where the Crew will end up.  If the Crew leave Columbus and Cincy is passed over, MLS is going to lose a lot of loyal fans in a hurry in arguably one of the best areas in the country for soccer.

Meanwhile, FC Cincinnati's new stadium may not actually be in Ohio at all.

Northern Kentucky business and government leaders will schmooze with FC Cincinnati representatives Friday afternoon an in effort to woo the soccer team's new stadium.

Cleared land for the yet-to-start Ovation development next to the confluence of the Ohio and Licking Rivers in Newport is a possible location to build a stadium. The property has a clear view of Downtown Cincinnati. 
FC Cincinnati's president and general manager Jeff Berding and Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce president Brent Cooper will spend the afternoon touring nonprofits in Covington and Newport, according to a chamber release. 
Berding and Cooper will be joined by Eric Rose of Newport Aquarium, Newport Mayor Jerry Peluso, Hofbrauhaus Newport co-owner and Fort Thomas Mayor Eric Haas, MeetNKY convention and visitors bureau's Eric Summe, and Alex Perkins and Gaby Batshoun of Global Business Solutions.

The NKY Chamber is tripping over itself to get FC Cincinnati to agree to a deal that'll put the stadium in Newport by the levee.  The current plan to put the stadium in the West End is getting a lot of pushback from residents, and rightfully so.

We'll see where all this goes, but it may be a long time before this one gets sorted out.  If you had hopes for FC Cincinnati to join MLS before 2021 or 2022 at the earliest, I wouldn't go printing the t-shirts just yet.

Donny's Pyongyang Adventure

The North Korean regime has been trying to invite a US president to Pyongyang for direct talks for two decades now in order to prove to the world that its nuclear program is powerful enough to bring even the leader of the free world to its doorstep to negotiate as the regime's equal on North Korea's terms.  

Clinton, Dubya, and Obama all passed on such an obvious diplomatic trap that would accomplish nothing but upside for the Kim regime and establish a new diplomatic paradigm that the world should be coming to Pyongyang directly at its whim.

No major world leader would be blockheaded enough to give the North Koreans exactly what they wanted: proof that their nuclear program is absolutely justified as a tool to get America and the western world to the table and assure to the rest of the planet that a nuclear program is exactly what your tinpot dictatorship needs in order to get respect on the global stage.

So guess what goddamn idiot Donald Trump announced he was going to do this spring.

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has invited President Trump to meet for negotiations over its nuclear program, an audacious diplomatic overture that would bring together two strong-willed, idiosyncratic leaders who have traded threats of war.

The White House said that Mr. Trump had accepted the invitation, and Chung Eui-yong, a South Korean official who conveyed it, told reporters that the president would meet with Mr. Kim within two months.

“He expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible,” Mr. Chung said at the White House on Thursday evening after meeting the president. Mr. Trump, he said, agreed to “meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization.”

The president expressed his optimism about the meeting in a post on Twitter, saying that Mr. Kim had “talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze.”

“Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time,” Mr. Trump added. “Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!”

Mr. Chung, whose talks with Mr. Kim on Monday in Pyongyang resulted in the invitation, noted that the North Korean leader said he understood that joint military exercises with the United States and South Korea would go ahead as scheduled after the end of the Paralympic Games this month.

For Mr. Trump, a meeting with Mr. Kim, a leader he has threatened with “fire and fury” and has derided as “Little Rocket Man,” is a breathtaking gamble. No sitting American president has ever met a North Korean leader, and Mr. Trump himself has repeatedly vowed that he would not commit the error of his predecessors by being drawn into a protracted negotiation in which North Korea extracted concessions from the United States but held on to key elements of its nuclear program.

Meeting Mr. Kim now, rather than at the end of a negotiation when the United States would presumably have extracted concessions from North Korea, is an enormous gesture by the president. But Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim share a penchant for bold, dramatic moves, and their personal participation in a negotiation could take it in unexpected directions.

Sure, those "unexpected directions" include "going completely off the rails with a nuclear adversary". The rank amateurism and sheer stupidity of the agreement cannot be overstated, as Ankit Panda explains.

For Kim, a meeting with Trump will be an unalloyed propaganda victory. Trump will assuredly not “achieve permanent denuclearization,” despite what he told Chung. Instead, Kim will be given the opportunity to stage-manage a photo-op with a U.S. president. The costs of a freeze in nuclear and ballistic missile testing for the next two months are relatively minor for North Korea compared to the benefits of a meeting with Trump.

In a normal world, too, there could be a serious opportunity in direct leader-level talks between the United States and North Korea, but Trump is far from a normal president. The United States is woefully lacking in subject matter expertise on the Korean Peninsula at the highest levels of government, with the State Department’s special representative for North Korea policy, Joseph Yun, having just stepped down last week and the post of ambassador to Seoul still vacant. Trump has the intelligence community behind him, but it’s doubtful that he’s capable of being successfully briefed.

A face-to-face meeting with Kim would require Trump to exercise cautious, measured engagement. He’d have to hear out what the North Korean leader has to say and know where the red lines lie. North Korea’s long-term play on the Korean Peninsula is to “decouple” the United States and South Korea.

During his campaign for the presidency, Trump showed more interest in sitting down for a “hamburger” with Kim than he did in the alliance with South Korea, complaining about the costs of maintaining a forward-based military presence there. Those instincts still live within Trump and are ripe for exploitation by North Korea, which has had plenty of time to study him.

Trump has shown time and again a deep misunderstanding of the basic rules of statecraft (as well as economics, physics, and pretty damn well near everything else.)  The odds of him getting rolled by Kim like a drunk bum at an Staten Island policemen's ball are approaching 199%.  Disaster doesn't begin to cover it.

But, much like the GOP tax bill, the dismantling of Obamacare, and the new trade war ignited by Trump's steel and Aluminum tariffs, the effects of this catastrophe won't be fully felt until it's far too late for the next person in the White House to even begin to clean it up.


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