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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Surprising No One, Trump Blames Iran on Obama

The Daily Escape:

Hanging Lake Valley, CO – 2019 photo by henhooks

Circling back to Trump’s “standing down” speech, it seems like it was an exercise in gas lighting. Trump spoke for less than ten minutes, standing in front of his generals, who remained expressionless as he spoke. Occasionally, he seemed short of breath. Obviously he had a lot on his mind, but he sure didn’t look like someone refreshed from a two-week vacation.

This observation from the indispensable Marcy Wheeler captures the moment:

“Trump just pre-blamed Barack Obama for the failures most experts predict and have correctly predicted will come from Trump’s Iran policy. He suggests, falsely, that the current escalation is the result of Obama’s peace deal, rather than the demonstrable result of his suspension of it.”

Wrongo’s conservative friends repeat the lie that Obama sent planes full of American cash to Iran. They may be conflating the Iran deal with Iraq in 2003, when GW Bush sent them $12 billion in hundred dollar bills. That’s 363 tons of $ hundreds that disappeared almost immediately.

We know that Obama didn’t “pay” Iran $150 billion for the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal. The deal, approved by China, France, Germany, Russia, UK, and the US, involved the release of $ billions of Iran’s assets, frozen after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, in exchange for the end of Iran’s nuclear weapons development. The NYT reports that, after Iran paid its debts, it had between $32 billion and $50 billion left.

Trump and the GOP always try to shirk responsibility for their actions, and yesterday, they blamed the Democrats. Trump and the GOP:

  • Blamed Obama’s successful nuclear deal for what has happened after Trump’s rejection of it
  • Claimed Trump couldn’t brief Democrats on the Soleimani assassination because the Dems couldn’t be trusted to keep the news a secret
  • Suggested that Democrats’ impeachment of Trump has hurt his ability to respond to the very crisis he created by killing Soleimani

Trump’s blame shifting tactics are particularly toxic because his policies are likely to fail. The only way Trump can sustain support while presiding over these preventable failures is to blame someone else, like the Democrats, and the Iranians in this case.

And the only way for him to continue to follow his failing policies is to pretend he’s not the cause of the failure.

That’s the Republican playbook. They haven’t been the party of personal responsibility for a long time. They just pretend they are. Did Nixon take responsibility for Watergate? Think of Reagan blowing up the debt with his tax cuts and violating the Constitution with his Iran Contra scheme. Or Bush 1st lying about being out of the loop on Iran Contra. Then came Bush 2nd and Cheney who refused to listen to warnings that Bin Laden was going to attack us, and then using that attack as an excuse to go to war with Iraq.

Like Trump, none of them ever took personal responsibility for their lies and incompetence.

Trump’s excuse for not briefing the Gang of Eight is particularly worrisome. They are the leaders of both Parties from both the Senate and House, and the chairs and ranking minority members of both the Senate and House Committees for intelligence. The president is required to brief them on covert operations by law.

Apparently, Trump briefed Sen Lindsay Graham instead.

But Trump doesn’t want advice from people he doesn’t trust, and so he didn’t bother to brief the Gang of Eight before the Soleimani mission.

As we said yesterday, Trump owns this decision, and all of its consequences. That raises the political stakes in the run-up to the 2020 election, and makes it all-important for him to hedge his bet by finding scapegoats. It’s a feedback loop: Democrats, and Iranians can’t be right, they’re just disloyal, or traitors, or terrorists.

His behavior has become more impulsive as his mistakes have grown. His Party also shares full responsibility for them. But today’s GOP is about making up their own reality, blaming others for problems, and saying more tax cuts for the rich and corporations will paper over whatever problems they create. This is totally on the Republicans, and they will never stop of their own accord.

This will persist until the rest of us take action to change the arc of our politics.

It’s also on any Democrats who decide to let them slide, either by excusing their actions, or by not voting in November.

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Oliver North, Role Model

The Daily Escape:

Denver Botanical Gardens – 2018 photo by J3DImindTRIP

On Monday, the NRA named Oliver North as its next president. North is a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel best known for his central role in the 1980s Iran-Contra affair. He was found to have played a key role in the secret sale of arms to Iran, which was under an arms embargo at the time. Proceeds from the secret weapons sales were funneled to help support the Contra’s armed resistance to Nicaragua’s dictatorship led by the Somoza family. Under the Boland Amendment, funding of the Contras by the government had been prohibited by Congress.

North admitted during congressional testimony in 1987 to having lied to the House Intelligence Committee about Iran-Contra, and to having destroyed evidence of the scheme’s existence. He was subsequently convicted of related felonies, but they were vacated because of the finding that a witness against North had been influenced by his congressional testimony, which North had given in exchange for a grant of immunity from prosecution.

In summary, a guy who lied to Congress about illegal weapons sales to Iran is now the president of an organization whose central belief is that legal gun ownership is the key to maintaining a safe country.

Here is Charlie Pierce: (emphasis by Wrongo)

A trade association for the arms industry now will be headed by the most famous arms-trafficker in American history. An organization that wears patriotism as though it were the masque of the Red Death will be headed by a guy who sold missiles to one of the world’s leading sponsors of terrorism.

Wait a minute. North sold weapons to Iran. And the NRA loves Trump. And Trump is the guy who yesterday tore up the Nuclear Arms Deal with Iran, claiming that a lie was truth:

Last week Israel published intelligence documents, long concealed by Iran, conclusively showing the Iranians’ regime and its history of pursuing nuclear weapons.

With news like this, how does the Onion stay in business?

Jon Chait argues that the Republicans’ defense of Oliver North begat Donald Trump:

Three decades ago, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North took the Fifth Amendment in a private Senate hearing on the Iran-Contra scandal….Conservatives rallied to North’s defense, insisting the law barely mattered in comparison to the noble intentions North was following. “It is not whether some technical laws were broken, but whether we stop communism in Central America,” argued White House communications director Pat Buchanan.

So in the 1980s, Republicans were willing to overlook illegal actions if their own political priorities were supported. The story evolved, as a reading of the National Security Archive makes clear. The rest of those indicted or convicted were all pardoned in the final days of the presidency of George H. W. Bush, who had been Reagan’s Vice President at the time.

By doing that, Bush went further than any other president with the pardon power. His pardons made it impossible to pursue already-developed plans to investigate Bush himself in greater detail. At the time, the Iran-Contra Independent Counsel, Lawrence Walsh, told Newsweek:

It’s hard to find an adjective strong enough to characterize a president who has such contempt for honesty.

Until today, The North/Iran-Contra paved the way for our present political predicament where progressives are fighting to find truth hidden by actions in Washington, while Conservative lies distort current American policy. More from Jon Chait:

The North saga prefigured many things…about conservative politics in the present moment. It reveals the naïveté of the common belief that President Trump would never dare to take the Fifth Amendment in the Russia investigation, or that doing so would carry an unbearable political price.

Of course Trump’s base would tolerate Trump taking the Fifth in questioning by Mueller. Or pardoning people even before they were tried. After all, Pappy Bush got away with did it. More about the straight line from North to Trump:

Conservatives rallied to North’s defense because he was on their side, next to which the breaking of “technical laws” was a trifling concern. Trump can count on the same reflexive defense.

A convicted felon is now head of the NRA, a convicted felon leading the Republican Senate primary in West Virginia.

So, with all his Republican support, why would Trump ever worry about Mueller?

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