ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, August 15

Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
Linked articles in bold purple

The aftershocks of Charlottesville continue

The main story is the fallout from Pres. Trump’s initial failure to single out the instigators of the fatal attack. He has since issued a full-throated condemnation of the white nationalists, but not until he incurred serious political damage.

The Washington Post makes an important point: “Turmoil in Virginia touches a nerve across the country

 Kim Jong Un backs down from his threat to Guam.  (Story here)

Comment: The Chinese probably told him he went too far, but we don’t know the next shoe to fall. Kim has not been seen recently, which may indicate another test is near. In any case, the main problem remains, and there is no indication yet that China intends to resolve it.

Henry Kissinger, writing an op-ed in the WSJ over the weekend, says the only solution lies in the US and China working out a joint plan to deal with North Korea. The incentive for China is that North Korea’s provocative behavior could lead to nuclear proliferation in the region, which would be very bad for China. (Op-ed in WSJ, subscription)

Iran announces that it could restart its nuclear program within hours if the US pulls out of the agreement (BBC)

Comment: Another problem with pulling out: Obama front-loaded all the benefits–ace negotiators, eh?–so the Iranians have already received them.

Democratic Party flailing: Four-state tour to reconnect with workers (New York Times)

The need for the Democratic Party and the labor movement to take stock of their historically close alliance became clear after November’s election when Hillary Clinton’s support among union voters declined by 7 percentage points from 2012 when former President Barack Obama was re-elected.

For months, Democrats have been grappling with how to reconnect with the union and working class vote they once considered their base, prompting former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to lament after the election that “my party did not talk about what it always stood for.” –New York Times

Comment: For the party of Nancy Pelosi, Tom Steyer, and Keith Ellison to connect with workers, they will need to hire an anthropologist.

China’s economy continues to cool as Trump Administration looks into its unfair trade practices (US News and World Report)

Comment: The investigation could lead to tariffs or other punishment. As for Chinese economic performance, it is hard to assess because no serious economist trusts Beijing’s official data.

Today in teaching



ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Wednesday, February 15

Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
Linked articles in bold purple

 Today’s ZipDialog Roundup is entirely devoted to the serious ramifications of the Michael Flynn dismissal

 There are two overriding issues:

  1. Who will replace Flynn as National Security Adviser?
  2. Who leaked highly-classified signals intelligence on Flynn to the Washington Post? (Who is behind it and why?)

 Possible successors: David Petraeus and two others top the rumors  (USA Today) The top name among insiders is Robert Harward, a former deputy to Sec. of Defense Mattis. Another is retired general and former deputy to Flynn, Keith Kellogg. He is acting NSC Adviser now and has close ties to Trump. Then there is the truly formidable military strategist, David Petraeus.

Comment on Petraeus: Professionals consider David Petraeus the most successful battlefield general since World War II.  He achieved that not only by his field command but by completely revamping US military doctrine to meet the challenges of asymmetric warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. He is a serious strategist who knows all the top players in Washington and around the world.

Gen. Petraeus comes with two problems, though. One is obvious. One is not. The obvious one is his criminal record, a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified intelligence. That should not stop him from being appointed since he is the most qualified candidate, by far, and the job does not require Senate confirmation. Still, appointing him after his legal troubles would give the Democrats another target to shoot at and allow them to say that Republicans were being hypocritical when the criticized Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified documents. The Trump administration might want to avoid that incoming fire.

What could easily sink Petraeus, though, is not his weakness but his strength: he can and will stand up to the President (a crucial job in any White House) and stand up to the Secretary of Defense, intelligence officials, Sec. of State, Steve Bannon, and anybody else with turf to protect.

If you think these power players want another big-time player down the hall from the President, you must be returning from a Grateful Dead concert with high-powered brownies.  Do you think, just maybe, the folks at the Pentagon would prefer the boss’s old deputy? Yes, indeed.

A final point about the NSC adviser’s job: There are really two ways to serve as NSC adviser: Traffic Cop or Strategist. (The third, played by Ben Rhodes as Obama’s No. 2 at NSC, is Toady, constantly saying, “Yes, Mr. President, that is the most brilliant idea I’ve ever heard. Please tell me more.” In his case, I used the term No. 2 advisedly.) Kellogg and Harward would probably serve as traffic cop, assembling the recommendations from the principals, such as Mattis and Tillerson, and presenting them fairly to the president for a decision. Petraeus would play more the strategist’s role, as did Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski. (That might give the administration one strategist too many since Mattis himself is a very thoughtful, experienced one.)

 Who leaked this highly-classified information and Why? Those are the most important unknowns in this mess so far.

Mike Flynn’s phone call to Russia’s Ambassador to the US, Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, was captured by US signals intelligence, presumably the FBI since it was on US soil. Information about such intercepts is highly classified. So, how come we know so much about this private phone call? That is the single most important question in this episode. Someone saw this secret information and leaked it to the Washington Post, just as the FBI leaked confidential information about the Hillary Clinton investigation.

That “someone” could be in the intel agencies, or it could be an Obama holdover at Justice or State. It could be someone who desperately wants to kill the Trump administration in the crib. Or it could be someone who wants to change US policy toward Russia and thought Flynn was far too close to the Kremlin. Or it could be someone with a more limited goal, simply getting rid of Flynn, an experienced (but controversial) military-intelligence officer who vocally criticized US intelligence analysis for being politicized under Obama. It is no secret the Obama people had the long knives out for him. I suspect it is a cabal of Obama loyalists collaborating with unhappy careerists in the intel agencies and DOJ.

The Flynn leaks did not stop with one still-anonymous disclosure of the phone call. Multiple people have confirmed the leaked information. All of them must have had high-level security clearances and access to this information.

 My hunch is this:

The Flynn phone came while the Obama administration was still in office. Transcripts of the call circulated at the time to national security officials in the Obama White House, the Department of Justice, and probably John Kerry’s State Department. We know that senior DOJ officials were involved because one of them, an Obama holdover, told Trump aides about it after he became president. That DOJ official was Sally Yates, the same person who refused to defend Trump’s travel ban and was fired. She was the one who “warned” the Trump White House that Flynn could blackmailed by the Russians, according to reports.

⇒ If you want to know how costly it is to be a newcomer in Washington, look no further than the Trump newcomers asking Sally Yates to stay until Jeff Sessions was confirmed as Attorney General. She was already known to be a Trump adversary; keeping her on at DOJ was a serious error, one that no experienced pol would make. If you want to know what the Democrats accomplished by holding up Sessions confirmation, again, look at Ms. Yates. The Democrats actually retained political control over all agencies without a confirmed Trump nominee. Even when the Trump people arrive, they will find Obama loyalists and Trump adversaries in place throughout their bureaucracies. Expect trouble from them for years to come.

Returning to the Flynn phone intercept . . . here is what Eli Lake reports at Bloomberg:

Normally intercepts of U.S. officials and citizens are some of the most tightly held government secrets. This is for good reason. Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do.  –Eli Lake at Bloomberg

These leaks are serious felonies and deeply damaging to US security. They should be rooted out and people should be indicted. So should any careerists who leaked the content of Pres. Trump’s phone calls to other countries’ leaders.  They may not like the President. They may not like Mike Flynn. It doesn’t matter. Their leaks are damaging our country for their own political purposes.

 To learn more about these issues (links for each article): 

Multiple sources closely involved in the situation pointed to a larger, more secretive campaign aimed at discrediting Flynn and undermining the Trump White House.

“It’s undeniable that the campaign to discredit Flynn was well underway before Inauguration Day, with a very troublesome and politicized series of leaks designed to undermine him,” said one veteran national security adviser with close ties to the White House team. “This pattern reminds me of the lead up to the Iran deal, and probably features the same cast of characters.” –Washington Free Beacon

Comment: These shady dealings–and the permanent bureaucracies’ obvious loathing of Trump–is feeding paranoia about a “deep state” that governs America instead of its elected officials. Feeding that paranoia and, worse, proving it true, could be the deepest damage of all.


zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Tom Elia
 for the Free Beacon story on Obama officials’ role in this takedown