On Tuesday (June 2), Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and General Mark A. Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, walked with Donald Trump from the White House to St. John’s Church, where Trump posed for an awkward photo-op. To clear the way for Trump’s walk, law enforcement personnel used tear gas and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters. Milley was dressed in a battle uniform. Esper later said that Trump had tricked him into the walk.
This opens a number of questions. One is the appropriate relationship between the civilian side of government and the military, including whether military personnel should allow themselves to be used for political purposes. Esper is not military, but he is the face of civilian primacy over the military.
A lot of people asking whether 2020 is like 1968, most of them saying that they weren’t there. I was there – not in the riots, but rather focused on my own life. A few years married, in a job at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory that was below my capabilities but learning a lot about reactors. Just moved into a new house. I was not very political, although the Vietnam War was part of every young person’s consciousness.
Here are some early thoughts about what the Pence Task Force should do, coming out of my experience in project management.
Determine who is in charge. In Donald Trump’s typical desire to weaken subordinates and watch them fight, he has appointed three people as being in charge of the task force. No work will get done unless they agree who is to be the responsible decision-maker. Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Pharmaceutical Profit Alex Azar, or Ambassador Deborah Birx, MD. Once a leader is determined, all members of the task force must turn back Trump’s meddling on this issue.
As a part of setting up a responsibility structure, leaders must be chosen for subgroups as noted in the following topics. Read More
Referring to President Trump’s “rights,” as in “He has a right to declassify information,” repeats his childish and ignorant thinking and expression.
The presidency is a privilege conferred on a person by the citizens. It carries no additional rights beyond the rights of all citizens.
The President swears an oath of office.
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
By doing that, he takes on obligations to the people and Constitution of the United States. No additional rights.
All of a President’s actions should be guided by those obligations.
In the latest case in which the “rights” terminology has shown up, there are certain regulations that apply. The classification regulations give the President certain authorities, not rights. Under the oath of office, these authorities are to be exercised responsibly. And the authorities are exercised under the rule of law more generally.
In particular, the President is the ultimate classification authority. The regulations specify procedures through which that authority is to be exercised. Documents are to be signed, and classification markings are to be properly canceled.
It’s hard to believe that Trump followed any of those procedures in releasing yesterday’s photo. He is very possibly violating his oath of office in releasing national security information impulsively through a tweet. He has no “right” to do that.
Election hacking in Florida, municipality hacking in Baltimore, and President Donald Trump’s handing of classification authorities to Attorney General William Barr share some characteristics. Our strategies lag behind the realities of dealing with information in the age of the internet. We need to start thinking differently about how we handle information; when to withhold it and when to share it.
I’ll write three posts on ways to think about those situations. We have to find better ways to deal with information and its misuses. Read More
Ilhan Omar (D – MN) had words for Elliott Abrams in his confirmation hearing yesterday.
Exchange between Rep. @IlhanMN and Elliott Abrams: "I fail to understand why members of this committee of the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful." pic.twitter.com/n8aMbH1g3G
She is herself a refugee from wars like those in Central America during the 1980s. Abrams was one of the people responsible for supporting the people who made those wars. The instability that drives people from their homes to the United States today can be traced back to those wars. Now Donald Trump wants Abrams to help with Venezuela. Omar’s questions and comments are appropriate as Trump threatens military intervention in Venezuela. Read More
Nancy Pelosi released a remarkable statement last night. Since she is a strategist, we can analyze it in terms of a strategy, a refreshing change from the last two years.
We have become accustomed to the idea that Donald Trump and his people have connections to Russia. The news has trickled out, first to surprise, now to boredom. But the number and type of connections are remarkable for a President of the United States, and they may well have been unlawful.
The general outlines of the story have been visible since the 2016 Republican primary, and there is a circumstantial case that Trump has been working with Russians and Russian money for a long time and had Russian help in the 2016 election. We have become enured to this and no longer hear it. Read More
Hundreds of films and television series were produced in the middle of the twentieth century on the theme of the lone gunman saving a town. An isolated frontier town is in trouble, usually from marauders who are stealing cattle and menacing women and children. A rugged, handsome hero rides in and saves the town.
The variations are endless. The troublemakers may be from the town or from outside. They are often nonwhite and the town primarily white, with a few people of color scattered in. The leadership of the town, usually white men, are ineffective or injured. The hero is white and may, as in the case of the Lone Ranger, have a nonwhite sidekick. He may become romantically involved with one of the women of the town, but he seldom stays. The narrative is gendered and racialized. Read More