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Trump’s Napalm Politics

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Approximately one billion news cycles ago — which is to say, on June 9 — a businesswoman named Marjorie Taylor Greene won the Republican primary in Georgia’s deeply conservative 14th Congressional District, northwest of Atlanta, which means she’s all but assured a seat in the House of Representatives next year.

Unfortunately, she is a cheerful bigot and conspiracy-theory fluffernutter. She subscribes to QAnon, the far-right fever dream that says Donald Trump is under siege from a cabal of deep-state saboteurs, some of whom run a pedophile ring; she says African-Americans are being held back primarily by “gangs.” (She’s left behind a contrail of unsavory videos through cyberspace, if you’d care to Google.)

The House Republican leadership is trying to distance itself from this woman, as if she belongs to some other party from a faraway galaxy. She doesn’t. Her politics are Trumpism distilled. And Trumpism itself isn’t a style and philosophy that began in 2016, with Trump’s election, or even in 2010, with the Tea Party. It began 40-odd years ago, in Greene’s own state, with the election of a different politician just two districts over.

I’m talking about Newt. You really could argue that today’s napalm politics began with Newt.

The normalization of personal destruction. The contempt for custom. The media-baiting, the annihilation of bipartisan comity, the delegitimizing of institutions.

“Gingrich had planted; Trump had reaped,” writes the Princeton historian Julian Zelizer in the prologue to his forthcoming book, “Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of a New Republican Party.”

I recently read Zelizer’s book with morbid fascination. My first real job in journalism was as a reporter for the The Hill newspaper the year it launched, in 1994, which happened to be the same year Republicans won control of the House, overturning four decades of Democratic rule. (I wrote nothing memorable that day, but I did come up with our banner headline: “It’s Reigning Republicans.”)

Gingrich became speaker the following January. It was a stunning development. Previous speakers, no matter how partisan they were, tended to work, lunch and even drink across the aisle. The only kind of cocktails Gingrich was partial to were Molotovs.

He conceived of governing as war. Democrats were not merely to be defeated ideologically. They were to be immolated.

Even as an inexperienced kid, I could see his ascension was bad news. Looking back, the parallels between then and now couldn’t be clearer.

Democrats were devastated that a man with so much malignity and anger in his heart could suddenly be at the helm; but in Republicans, Gingrich had a cult.

Gingrich despised the mainstream press, breaking with tradition and giving valuable real estate over in the Capitol to conservative, nativist-populist radio hosts who spoke loudly and carried a big schtick, just as Trump gives coveted space to the servile One America News Network.

Gingrich was my introduction to Orwellian newspeak. He had this tic of starting every other paragraph with “frankly” and then telling a lie; it was his poker tell. Falsehoods and hyperbole came as naturally to him as smirking. He freely trafficked in conspiracy theories. His PAC circulated a pamphlet for aspiring politicians who wished “to speak like Newt.” It advised them to repeat a long list of words to describe Democrats, including sick, pathetic, corrupt.

Like Trump, Gingrich was a thrice-married womanizer who’d somehow seduced the evangelicals. He too had a skyscraping ego, nursed grudges as if they were newborns, and lacked impulse control. In 1995, Bill Clinton made him sit in the back of Air Force One; he responded with a tantrum and shut down the government, prompting The New York Daily News to run a cartoon cover of him in a diaper under the headline “Cry Baby.”

Gingrich turned the politics of white racial grievance into an art form. They may have started with Nixon’s Southern Strategy, but Gingrich actually came from the South. He intuited the backlash to globalization, to affirmation action; the culture teemed with stories about white men under siege. (Including the Michael Douglas movie “Falling Down,” about a divorced, unemployed defense contractor’s descent into armed madness.) It wasn’t long before 1994 became known as “The Year of the Angry White Male.”

Most of Zelizer’s book is about Gingrich’s Javert-like quest to bring down the House speaker, Jim Wright, for his shady ethics. (Gingrich succeeded, only to later be reprimanded and fined for his own ethical breaches.) Zelizer never mentions individual parallels to Trump once he starts telling Gingrich’s story, which is clever, because there’s no need. They hop off the page like frogs.

But the one that stands out, the one that goosepimples me even as I type, is this: Gingrich was the first true reality TV politician. He understood that the C-Span cameras didn’t have to be a passively recording set of eyes. You could operatically perform for them. Early in his career, Gingrich staged a coordinated attack on House Democrats that drew so much fury from Speaker Tip O’Neill it earned him time on the evening news. “I’m famous,” he crowed.

“Conflict equals exposure equals power,” became one of his favorite sayings. Which may as well be the motto of reality television. And Trump.

Assuming she wins in November, Marjorie Taylor Greene will likely be relegated to the margins of her caucus. But if Gingrich — and Trump — have taught us anything, it’s that there’s no telling where the last exit is on the loonytown expressway to extremism; we know only that the guardrails get lower with each passing mile. “These are the depths to which we’ve descended,” Zelizer told me in a phone call. “No one ever thinks that an outlier will one day be the party’s future.”

Source:The New York Times

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Govt Watchdog: Politics Caused 'Sharpiegate' Frantic Rebuke – The New York Times

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Political pressure from the White House and a series of “crazy in the middle of the night” texts, emails and phone calls caused top federal weather officials to wrongly admonish a weather office for a tweet that contradicted President Trump about Hurricane Dorian in 2019, an inspector general report found.

Commerce Department Inspector General Peggy Gustafson concluded in a report issued Thursday that the statement chastising the National Weather Service office in Birmingham, Alabama, could undercut public trust in weather warnings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and for a short time even hindered public safety. Agency officials downplayed and disputed the findings.

“Instead of focusing on NOAA’s successful hurricane forecast, the Department unnecessarily rebuked NWS forecasters for issuing a public safety message about Hurricane Dorian in response to public inquiries—that is, for doing their jobs,” the report concluded.

Former Obama NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco, a scientist at Oregon State University, said in an email that high level officials “put politics and their own jobs above public safety. In my view, this is shameful, irresponsible, and unethical.”

At issue was a Sept. 1 tweet from the Birmingham weather office that “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.”

The tweet came out 10 minutes after President Donald Trump had tweeted that Alabama was among states that “will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.” Forecasters in Alabama said they didn’t know about the president’s tweet, which was based on outdated information, and that they were instead responding to calls from a worried public.

By the time the two tweets were posted, Alabama was no longer in the hurricane center’s warning cone, although it had been in previous days. One hurricane center graphic at the time showed a “non-zero” chance of tropical storm force winds for a tiny corner of Alabama, something NOAA officials later scurried to highlight, according to the report.

However, NOAA acting chief Neil Jacobs told the inspector general’s office that the day of the president’s tweet he was baffled by Trump’s reference to Alabama: “(T)hat was the first time when I was wondering why are we still talking about Alabama, you know?”

The dustup came to be referred to as “Sharpiegate” after the president later displayed a National Hurricane Center warning map that had been altered with a black marker to include Alabama in the potential path of the storm. The president is known for his use of Sharpies.

Four days after the tweets, then acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney sent Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross an email after 9 p.m., saying “it appears as if the NWS intentionally contradicted the president. And we need to know why. He wants either a correction or an explanation or both.”

That triggered a series of texts, emails and phone calls involving Ross underlings, especially Department of Commerce Chief of Staff Michael J. Walsh Jr. from 1 a.m. to 3:43 a.m., laying the groundwork for a NOAA statement that came out the next day.

Jacobs said “things went crazy in the middle of the night.”

Then-NOAA communications chief Julie Kay Roberts told the inspector general’s office that Walsh told her “there are jobs on the line. It could be the forecast office in Birmingham. Or it could be someone higher than that. And the higher is less palatable.”

Walsh denied that to the inspector general. The report said there was no credible evidence found to say that jobs were threatened. However, Jacobs told the inspector general’s office he “definitely felt like our jobs were on the line” but that “nobody told me I was going to get fired.”

The eventual unsigned statement from NOAA said: “The Birmingham National Weather Service’s Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.”

Dorian made landfall in North Carolina and had no major impact on Alabama, which is about 600 miles away.

“By requiring NOAA to issue an unattributed statement related to a then-5-day-old tweet, while an active hurricane continued to exist off the east coast of the United States, the Department displayed poor judgment in exercising its authority over NOAA,” the inspector general report said

The report also criticized Roberts for deleting text messages, which is contrary to government document retention rules.

In a statement attached to the report, Walsh said the report’s conclusions “are completely unsupported by any of the evidence or factual findings that the report lays out. The Inspector General instead selectively quotes from interviews, takes facts out of context.”

The White House declined comment. The Department of Commerce attached a letter to the report saying the report doesn’t dispute the accuracy of the Sept. 6 statement that criticized the Birmingham office nor does it find that the agency suppressed scientific communication.

Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, said she could not support Jacobs’ nomination to be the full-time, no longer acting, chief of NOAA, saying the report shows Jacobs “failed to protect scientists from political influence.”

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Politics with Michelle Grattan: Christopher Pyne on being 'the ultimate insider' – The Conversation AU

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Former Liberal Minister Christopher Pyne attracted critics for his political front. But he always had plenty of friends and networks, enabling him often to be a player, if not always a “fixer”.

After his election to the South Australian seat of Sturt at age 25, he went on to hold senior portfolios, notably education and defence, and to stride the parliamentary stage as Leader of the House of Representatives.

In his memoir, The Insider, the former politician provides his take, humorous and candid, on a tumultuous 26 parliamentary years.

In this podcast, Pyne talks about life after politics, and stories from the ‘Canberra bubble’.

“I don’t miss politics at all – because I left happy, and I wanted to go.

“So I’m not one of these politicians that was dragged kicking and screaming. I left when people wanted me to stay, which is a great rarity.”

Pyne is ultra candid about his ambition to be prime minister:

“I think when you’re 15, and you decided you want to be a member of the House of Representatives, you kind of think ‘I’m going to dream big.’ So of course I dreamt to be prime minister”.

Reality, it appears, didn’t hit for quite a while.

“I think that week when Malcolm [Turnbull] was deposed and nobody was suggesting that I should be running for leader, it dawned on me that the generation that was being elected, which was Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg, were a generation different to me.”

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The semiconductor industry is where politics gets real for Taiwan

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One might wonder how something as small as five nanometres – about the width of two strands of DNA – could be of consequence to the complex political relationships between the US, China and Taiwan.

Semiconductor chips are the brains of all our electronics, from mobile phones to cars to fighter jets. And the most advanced chips on the market today have billions of five nanometre switches on them.

Taiwan has a dominant role in the international supply chain for these tiny but strategically vital products. Together with South Korea’s Samsung and Intel from the US, Taiwan is at the cutting edge of semiconductor technology. It is also a major presence in their manufacturing: one Taiwanese company, TSMC, produces about half the world’s annual supply of chips.

The industry has been a diplomatic asset for Taiwan, entrenching US and Chinese interests in Taiwan’s stability and autonomy.

Taiwan’s semiconductor industry has deep links to the US. This is not surprising when you know the history. Taiwan’s sector took off in the 1970s and 1980s when Taipei was looking for a way out of an economic slump caused by the 1973 oil shock. A combination of industry policy and unlikely personal connections with leaders in the Radio Corporation of America saw a generation of Taiwanese engineers trained in the US. Today, almost all major US technology firms have some presence in Taiwan. The US sources its most advanced chips for military hardware from TSMC – chips it is unable to make at home. Taiwan is also the second-largest market for US semiconductor equipment.

Taiwanese company TSMC produces about half the world’s annual supply of chips (Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images)

But China’s emergence as the world’s largest consumer of semiconductor chips has led Taiwan to develop links there, too. Since the early 2000s Taiwanese semiconductor firms have radically increased sales into the Chinese market. And the benefits of this relationship run both ways. China’s domestic manufacturing meets less than a fifth of domestic demand for chips and is about five years behind the technology frontier. China leans heavily on Taiwan’s manufacturing capacity for the chips vital to its electronics industry, including some of its most profitable export lines.

The Taiwanese semiconductor industry’s vested interests in both the US and Chinese markets have seen it quietly lobby for Taipei to maintain friendly ties with both sides. But Taiwan’s status as a neutral player is becoming harder to maintain. With US-China tensions rising, both fear the influence of the other over their supply of chips.

The US technology war with China, by a combination of both default and design, is pulling Taiwan closer into the orbit of the United States.

Under the Trump administration, the US has become more pro-Taiwan than at any time since it switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979. This policy is more a confluence of many interests than clear strategic vision. With the White House largely looking the other way and anti-China sentiment running high, pro-Taiwan elements in the US concerned with historical or geopolitical reasons for Taiwan’s continued autonomy have been vocal in shaping policy. And they’ve found support from elements within the national security apparatus who want to exert influence over Taiwan’s technology sector and ringfence it from China.

The US technology war with China, by a combination of both default and design, is pulling Taiwan closer into the orbit of the United States. There have long been reports of US pressure on Taiwanese semiconductor companies to resist sales to China and do more manufacturing in the US. In May, this culminated in both an announcement from TSMC that it would spend US$12 billion on a US manufacturing plant (with an unspecified amount of US government support) and a technical change to export rules.

New export rules in the US designed to target Huawei will have big implications for Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturers such as TSMC. In the past, TSMC earned nearly a fifth of its revenue from sales to China. But much of that has ground to a halt. Because TSMC uses US semiconductor equipment to make the chips it sells, there are now limits on who it can sell to. The rules mean TSMC will be ever more reliant on the US market for sales.

For China, the new rules won’t bite for a little while. Huawei has reportedly stockpiled a year’s supply of chips. There has also been some media speculation about an exemption – will TSMC’s US$12 billion investment in the US buy it some leeway? And a year is a long time in both politics and technology; whether China can negotiate, or innovate, its way out of this dilemma is anyone’s guess.

The ability of Taiwanese semiconductor firms to seek out friendly ties with both the US and China is also made harder by the ideological approach of President Xi Jinping to Taiwan’s status. One might think that China’s dependency on Taiwan for chips might endear it to the status quo. But Xi isn’t such a realist when it comes to Taiwan. Beijing views Taiwan in largely political terms – preoccupied with “the great trend of history” towards unification, as Xi claimed in his January 2019 speech which soured cross-strait relations. This is because ideas of the Communist Party’s legitimacy are tightly bound together with control over China’s territory and historical sovereignty of Taiwan. Save for paying handsome salaries to attract Taiwanese talent, China’s increasingly hostile policy to Taiwan is remarkably at odds with its trade interests.

The technology war, increasingly nationalist trade policies in the US, and ideological hardening in China mean that Taiwan’s ability to keep calm and carry on is getting tricker. And the semiconductor industry is where politics gets real for Taiwan. The industry accounts for around 15% of Taiwan’s GDP, so there’s a lot at stake. Taiwan’s dominance in this tiny but strategically important technology is becoming another layer of complexity in the US, China, Taiwan triangle.

Source: – The Interpreter

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