Welcome to Perspectives, A Daily Outsider Property
Working to Help transform our Conversation About Our World.
Friday, October 25, 2019
Notations From the Grid (Weekly Edition): Out & About in Our World....
On the Week that was, we hereby present a snapshot of our World over the past two weeks:
Remembering Elijah Cummings
The Financial Times Ingram Pinn Reflects Upon Syria
1. The End
I told you we would get here eventually.
When the Ukraine story first emerged, I promised you that we would be going through a predictable sequence of lines about Trump's actions:
(1) This is all made up. Fake News.
(2) There's a partial story here, but it's nothing important. The media is biased.
(3) If there's anything bad or improper, the Dems do it worse.
(4) Of course he did it and he was right to do it.
Q But to be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is: Funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happens as well.
MR. MULVANEY: We do that all the time with foreign policy. We were holding money at the same time for — what was it? The Northern Triangle countries. We were holding up aid at the Northern Triangle countries so that they would change their policies on immigration.
By the way — and this speaks to an important —
MR. MULVANEY: I’m sorry? This speaks to an important point, because I heard this yesterday and I can never remember the gentleman who testified. Was it McKinney, the guy — was that his name? I don’t know him. He testified yesterday. And if you go — and if you believe the news reports — okay? Because we’ve not seen any transcripts of this. The only transcript I’ve seen was Sondland’s testimony this morning.
If you read the news reports and you believe them — what did McKinney say yesterday? Well, McKinney said yesterday that he was really upset with the political influence in foreign policy. That was one of the reasons he was so upset about this. And I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.
"Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy."
Some of Trump's more shameless defenders have tried to insist that Mulvaney didn't say anything extraordinary. To believe that requires an amount of charity that borders on the saintly.
Any impartial reading of his remarks puts us at step 4 on the above list.
Don't take my word for it. Even elected Republicans who support Trump were freaked out by Mulvaney's admission.
Here's the thing: Mick Mulvaney is pretty great. He's the smartest guy in the administration and has been Trump's most able and convincing apologist. If you wanted to get the best possible explanation for Trump's actions, all you had to do was listen to Mulvaney for five minutes.
I literally once told Mulvaney that he ought to be the only person in the administration allowed to go on TV and defend Trump. He's smart. He shoots straight. He doesn't insult your intelligence. He's everything you want in a politician. (Mulvaney 2024!)
But if even Mick Mulvaney has run out of room to maneuver and can no longer defend Trump's actions in a credible way, then it means that Trump is basically at the end of the road. He's flipped to the last page of his playbook and there is no "next step." For the first time since the Access Hollywood tape, Trump is trapped.
And the trap is closing.
Nine out of the last ten polls taken on impeachment have been over the 50 percent mark on approval. (All of the usual caveats about different question wording; inquiry vs. removal; etc.)
When your overall job approval is barely at 40 percent and the percentage of people who want you impeached is over 50 percent and heading north, you're in trouble.
All geostrategic considerations are based on the status quo. The status quo—the facts on the ground—are the basis for all relations and all negotiations.
When one party seeks to change the status quo, they have to be prepared to give something up.
And if you are the party being asked to allow a change to the status quo, you should get something in return. This is the entire basis of leverage and negotiation.
For more than a decade, Turkey has wanted a free hand with the Kurds in Northern Syria. The facts on the ground—meaning, the presence of the United States—prevented this. Turkey sought to change this status quo.
To do so, Turkey needed the United States to give them something of value: a withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Presented with this request, the president of the United States had to determine first if he was even willing to withdrawal U.S. forces and then, if so, second what America would demand in return for this concession.
You do not make concessions, ever, without getting something of value in return. Even if you wanted to do the thing the other side was asking you to do.
Because the fact of them unlocks value for you.
Which leads us to a question: Was Trump's pull-out from Syria just a monumental mistake in which the American president was outwitted by the Turkish strongman?
Or did he get something of value that we just don't know about?