Ezekiel Kweku/NY Times:
Steve Bannon Isn’t a Genius
In each of these cases, Mr. Bannon’s preferred outcome was thwarted by rather ordinary political forces, the same ones he promised to circumvent and transcend. In a way, to believe in Mr. Bannon’s genius is to adopt the president’s belief in a sort of vulgar technocracy — the belief that the “best people” can solve any problem put in front of them, whether they have expertise in that field or not. A newspaper publisher can broker peace in the Middle East and revolutionize the government. A neurosurgeon can run the Department of Housing and Urban Development. A life as a real estate mogul and celebrity businessman is adequate preparation for the presidency. But the ability to grab power does not grant the wisdom to wield it, and ungrounded grandiosity is just pretension.
The media loved Trump’s show of military might. Are we really doing this again?
Clara Jeffery, editor in chief of Mother Jones, offered a simple explanation: “It’s dramatic. It’s good for TV, reporters get caught up in the moment, or, worse, jingoism.”
She added: “Military action is viewed as inherently nonpartisan, opposition or skepticism as partisan. News organizations that are fearful of looking partisan can fall into the trap of failing to provide context.”
And so, empathy as the president’s clear motivation is accepted, she said — “with no mention of the refugee ban keeping those kids out, no mention of Islamophobia that has informed his campaign and administration. How can you write about motive and not explore that hypocrisy?”
13 questions raised by Trump’s missile strikes on Syria
Was Donald Trump’s attack on Syria the opening salvo of a broader campaign to topple Bashar al-Assad?Will Congress get a say? Is it really possible that Democrats are backing up the president more than some of his core supporters?
The pictures are devastating, the accounts are even worse. The early morning aerial gas attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province, Syria, that killed 83 people and wounded over 150, has reverberated throughout the international community. Now, just a couple days after the Trump Administration seemed to turn away from the policy of regime change in Syria, the White House may be preparing to take military action against the Assad regime—which would be a first since the Syrian civil war began over six years ago. And although Assad is a miserable tyrant and war criminal, attacking him now is a terrible idea. Here's why:
It's all about destroying ISIS. So far, the U.S. has successfully kept at bay a direct conflict with Assad's forces through careful geopolitical and military maneuvering. The height of complication, and peril, seemed to occur just over a month ago, when U.S. Rangers were suddenly deployed into the northern Syrian city of Manbij. Located west of the Euphrates River, the town was being held by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which are made up primarily of Kurdish fighters—the same fighters that Turkey sees as a mortal foe. Turkish forces in Syria needed to travel through that city in order to move on to the ISIS capital of al Raqqa, which was at the time Ankara's stated goal. In addition, it has long been Turkey's other military goal as part of "Operation Euphrates Shield" to route Kurdish forces from positions west of the Euphrates River.
The New York Times is putting a heartfelt spin on Trump’s bombing of Syria.
The media has fallen over itself to praise the U.S.’s attack against Syria last night, with many mainstream pundits proclaiming that Donald Trump has finally “become president.” But perhaps the most egregious example of this rosy coverage came from the Times, which claimed, in a piece headlined “On Syria Attack, Trump’s Heart Came First,” that Trump was primarily motivated by his great sympathy for the Syrian people. Trump’s decision to drop 59 missiles on Syria, Mark Landler writes, was “an emotional act by a man suddenly aware that the world’s problems were now his—and that turning away, to him, was not an option.”
It’s true that Trump claimed that the images of Syrian children killed by chemical weapons had a “big impact” on him. But this is exactly the kind of boilerplate that leaders of all kinds use when they launch attacks against other countries. The reasons we go to war are always humanitarian. This is the oldest trick in the book. That Landler is so credulous is especially unbelievable when you consider that Trump tried to ban Syrian refugees—very much including children—from entering the United States. If his heart was full for the children of Syria, Trump could have, I don’t know, taken them in?
Jose A. DelReal/WaPo:
Trump asked African Americans what they had to lose. For this rural Kentucky community, the answer is tangible.
But the center remains unfinished. President Trump’s proposed budget cuts would end the grant programs that residents hoped would help fund the rest of the restoration. On the campaign trail, Trump had asked African Americans what they had to lose if they voted for him. Here, that question has tangible answers.
Alexandra Petri/WaPo has a brilliant satire piece on Trump voters:
Every story I have read about Trump supporters in the past week
Next to her sits Linda Blarnik. Like the rusty hubcaps hanging on the wall behind her, she was made in America 50 years ago, back when this town made things, a time she still remembers fondly. She says she has had just enough of the “coastal elitist media who keep showing up to write mean things about my town and my life, like that thing just now where you said I was like a hubcap, yes you, stop writing I can see over your shoulder.” Mournfully a whistle blows behind her, the whistle of a train that does not stop in this America any longer.
Nicholas Kristof/NY Times:
My Most Unpopular Idea: Be Nice to Trump Voters
I wrote my last column from Oklahoma, highlighting voters who had supported Trump and now find that he wants to cut programs that had helped them. One woman had recovered from a rape with the help of a women’s center that stands to lose funding, another said that she would sit home and die without a job program facing cutbacks, and so on. Yet every one of them was still behind Trump — and that infuriated my readers.
“I’m just going to say it,” tweeted Bridgette. “I hate these people. They are stupid and selfish. Screw them. Lose your jobs, sit home and die.”
Another: “ALL Trump voters are racist and deplorable. They’ll never vote Democratic. We should never pander to the Trumpites. We’re not a party for racists.”
The torrent of venom was, to me, as misplaced as the support for Trump from struggling Oklahomans. I’m afraid that Trump’s craziness is proving infectious, making Democrats crazy with rage that actually impedes a progressive agenda.
One problem with the Democratic anger is that it stereotypes a vast and contradictory group of 63 million people. Sure, there were racists and misogynists in their ranks, but that doesn’t mean that every Trump voter was a white supremacist. While it wasn’t apparent from reading the column, one of the Trump voters I quoted was black, and another was Latino. Of course, millions of Trump voters were members of minorities or had previously voted for Barack Obama.
Yep. They’re not all the same. Some regret, some are unrepentent, some are racist to the core. Accepting their vote isn’t the same as accepting all of their views.
Amy Walter/Cook Political Report:
However, Trump’s troubles don’t necessarily lead to success for Democrats. In fact, too many people – including those in the media – are desperate to find a Trump “buyer’s remorse” story that just isn’t there. One reason, it is simply too early. For most normal people, 75 days into the toughest job in the world isn’t enough to time to make a judgement on his future success. More important, this storyline misses an important psychological element: nobody likes to be told that they made a mistake – or that they exhibited bad judgement. You want to be understood for why you made that decision, not mocked for doing it. ..
Working with Trump may be a bridge too far for most Democrats, especially since Trump has not built the trust or the good faith with them. It’s also hard for a Democrat to work with a President who has an 84 percent “strong disapproval” rating from Democratic voters. However, a message that is focused solely on “fighting Trump” and none about “fighting for” regular folks will fall flat in those swing districts Democrats are trying to hold/gain in 2018.
Democrats are still ignoring the people who could have helped them defeat Trump, Ohio party leaders say
Most acknowledge the need for a stronger economic message, but there has been pushback against the idea of chasing white working-class voters to the detriment of minorities and social issues. There is also disagreement over how important blue-collar voters were in November’s loss, with blame ranging from Russian hacking, late-game interference by the FBI director, the flaws of Hillary Clinton and her campaign strategy.
Others take offense at the idea of ceding focus on causes such as gay rights, anti-Muslim discrimination, racial disparity, abortion and women’s rights for the sake of votes.
“It’s a false choice to say we have to decide between economic issues and civil rights. They’re all part of the larger problem of inequality that we should be fighting against,” said Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, which is bringing together party luminaries in May for an brainstorming conference. “There’s no easy answers, and we’re still at the very beginning of the ideas process.”
"I think it was completely justified" — a former Obama Pentagon official on Trump's Syria attack
Why Trump’s attack may have been justified but could still backfire.
Every time we’re confronted with a foreign policy challenge like this, I’m frustrated by how dishonest we are about how limited our options are. There are limits to what American power can accomplish, and we seem incapable of learning that lesson. This strike, for example, is unlikely to materially impact anything on the ground in Syria, so what do we think we’re going to accomplish?
I have mixed feelings about the decision, but it’s not clear to me what good it will do if we’re not willing to escalate further, and even then we’re unlikely to fundamentally improve the situation.
I take your point, but we have to be clear about the intent here. If the intent is not to end the civil war or remove Assad but rather to dissuade Assad from using chemical weapons again, it absolutely could succeed. This was part of my frustration with Obama's "red line" remark. What people failed to recognize is that that ultimately led to the peaceful removal, with the help of Russia, of 1300 tons of chemical weapons, which I don't think could have been accomplished with the use of force.
This situation is different, but if this isolated attack deters Assad in the future, it's a success, even if it does nothing to end the broader conflict.
Even if we grant that this low-level strike was strategically sound, do you have any confidence that Trump — and his administration — can manage this situation as it unfolds?
I'm deeply worried. Obviously, the concerns about escalation are serious. We don't know what Assad will do. We don't know what Russia will do. We don't know what Iran will do. The Trump team is not exactly a tightly run operation, so yeah, I'm concerned.
This is a high-risk situation, and very little about this administration inspires confidence. Again, my sense is that the intent here was limited in scope, akin to what Clinton did in Iraq in 1993. But, as we've learned, any time you use military force, particularly in the Middle East, it rarely turns out as you intended.
Don't kill the Legal Services Corporation: Christian lawyer
Unfortunately, one of the casualties getting less attention is the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which provides free legal representation and access to the law for those who can’t afford it. The Trump budget would completely defund it….
Some say that lawyers and law firms just need to step up and volunteer more. But the LSC-funded legal aid groups provide the vital structure through which the law firms donate their pro bono work. If we kill the LSC, most law firms are not likely to set up their own legal aid programs.
The ramifications of defunding the LSC will only hurt those who are already vulnerable. America needs legal aid staff attorneys and places where other attorneys can volunteer to help the poor and needy in our cities and neighborhood. Otherwise, our country's principle of "equal justice for all" is just a sham.