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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How American Anarchy Parallels China’s Cultural Revolution


I’ve been avoiding the news lately because it pains me to see my beloved country so divided, with people so bitterly angry at each other. All the shouting, violence, and destruction of historical monuments have only brought up a feeling of déjà vu. 

America is clearly undergoing a Cultural Revolution that is eerily similar to Mao’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution which took place in China in the 1960s. Maybe Karl Marx was right after all when he declared that “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”

Both Movements Started On Campuses, And Spread

China’s Cultural Revolution was triggered by a group of students at Beijing University, the most elitist college in China. They called themselves the Red Guards because they worshiped China’s communist dictator Mao and his socialist/communist ideology feverishly. In their manifesto, they questioned the usefulness of knowledge, and condemned their professors and university administrators for harboring “intellectual elitism and bourgeois tendencies” and for stalling China’s progress towards a communist utopia.

Mao immediately realized that he could use these over-zealous and ignorant teenagers as a political tool to purge his enemies and shape society to his own liking. He elevated the Red Guards’ status by appearing at a massive Red Guard rally on August 18, 1966 at Tiananmen Square. This event lent Red Guards political legitimacy, and officially kicked off the Cultural Revolution. The Red Guards’ ideas quickly spread from colleges to high schools.

No one on campus dared challenge the Red Guards. Capitulations from school authorities only emboldened them. They led students to strike, refusing to take classes from people who were deemed less than ideologically pure. Professors, teachers, and school administrators were paraded and forced to make numerous public self-criticisms about “transgressions” against government-sanctioned orthodoxy. Soon, college entrance exams were suspended and many schools, from universities to high schools, were closed. The entire education system was paralyzed.

Without schools to go to, the Red Guards traveled all over China to spread their ideas and tactics to the “real world.” Other people, such as factory workers unhappy with the shortages, organized their own groups to challenge leadership of their own work units. Since no one was working, businesses, factories, and many government agencies were shut down. The entire country fell into lawlessness and chaos.

American College Students: Resurrecting The Red Guard?

Like Mao’s Red Guards, some American college students and their supporters have been shouting down anyone who dares to disagree with them. These modern-day Red Guards demand that college campuses be an inclusive and safe place, but are bent on making sure the campus is an unwelcoming and unsafe place for anyone who doesn’t show unconditional support for students’ sanctioned orthodoxy. From Yale to Middlebury, college professors and administrators have caved to these students mobs’ preposterous demands. Exhibit A is Nicholas Christakis, the Silliman master at the center of Yale’s debate over Halloween costumes. His very public self-criticism probably would have won over Maoist Red Guards in China, but failed to gain sympathy from privileged Yale students.

Now that kind of zealous demand for thought conformity has expanded outside campuses to the “real world.” When James Damore, a Google employee, raised questions about Google’s diversity training in a memo, he was fired by Google. As Sumantra Maitra wrote, “Nothing could be more dystopian than the largest information, communication, and documentation hub controlling your thoughts and punishing you for wrong think.”

Both Movements Sought the Destruction of History

The Red Guards firmly believed that in order to build a new world, they had to wipe out the old one. So they traveled around the country, eradicating anything representing China’s feudalistic past: old customs, old cultures, old habits, and old ideas. Museums, temples, shrines, heritage sites, including Confucius’ tomb, were defaced, ransacked, or even totally destroyed.

One of the worst instances of destruction took place at the Ming Dynasty(1368-1644) tombs near Beijing. The Red Guards dug up the remains of Ming emperors and empresses, denouncing their oppression against Chinese people, before burning the remains with burial treasures, including priceless ancient artifacts, books, and manuscripts. Much personal property, including my own family’s genealogy book—containing 50 generations of information—was confiscated and ended up in the fire. In the meantime, many cities and towns renamed their streets with new revolutionary names. Mao pictures and statues were everywhere. Such drastic efforts to erase the influence of the past and remake the society in a revolution-sanctioned image have left irrevocable damage to Chinese culture and people.

That intensity and zeal to cleanse the past is repeating itself in America. Since recent events in Charlottesville, calls to remove or destroy Confederate statues in the U.S. have only gotten louder. Some places, such as the city of Baltimore and Duke University, already took actions to remove Confederate statues. Over the weekend, however, more and more historical monuments, some having nothing to do with the Confederacy, were vandalized.

It’s true that Confederate soldiers and generals fought to maintain an immoral system. They should not be celebrated. But as Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal wrote over the weekend, “when a nation tears down its statues, it’s toppling more than brass and marble. It is in a way toppling itself. When you tear down statues, you tear down avenues of communication, between generations.”

I always believe if we want to define our future, we have to learn from the past. But if we don’t have a complete picture of the past, how can we make sure we learn the right lessons? Every civilization, every country, every generation of people, has its own good, bad, and ugly. “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” We owe it to ourselves and future generations to preserve a full picture of the past and make sure lessons in full context are passed on.

Both Movements Justify Violence on the Basis of Their Perceived Moral Authority

The Red Guards were fanatic about social classes and political identity. They believed they were the rightful heir to Mao’s socialist revolution and that only they and their chairman were on the right side of the history. Thus, they shouted down anyone who dared to show the slightest disagreement with slogans, such as “a complete confession is the only road to survival. Anything less will lead to death!”

The Red Guards were sources of terror. Professors, writers, scientists, artists, and even government officials were publicly paraded, denounced, humiliated, and tortured in public by the Red Guards and their supporters. Suicides among the persecuted were very common. The Red Guards even amplified their militant and violent nature by wearing special outfits: olive green People’s Liberation Army’s uniform with a red arm band.

As the Red Guards spread from schools to the rest of the society, they also increased their use of force. They didn’t just fight with their fists, either: they fought with real weapons. Some Chinese cities were engulfed in violence to such an extent, order was only restored through military takeover.

If you think that level of violence and lawless will never take place in America, just watch the videos of violent protests at YaleBerkeley, and Middlebury College. Fringe groups such as Antifainsist that violence is justified against anyone they deem  to be haters, racists, or fascists. Once again, after these groups honed their vicious tactics on college campuses and faced little consequences or push back, they took their tactics to the “real” world. During a 2016 campaign rally in San Jose, anti-Trump demonstrators violently attacked Trump supporters and local police. Since Trump’s election, such belief in “righteous beating” have received support from mainstream left leaning media, even some politicians. This so called “legitimate violence” from radical left fueled the violent response from far right groups, which led us to Charlottesville.

We Have To Learn From Mistakes Of The Past

Our nation has fallen into a vicious cycle: violence from one side induces a violent response from the other side, which becomes an excuse to justify more violence.

Mao’s Cultural Revolution movement was the darkest chapter in China’s history. It should be called “Cultural Destruction.” It brought the Chinese people nothing but misery. It did fundamentally transform Chinese society: millions, including a generation of China’s intellectual backbone, perished, and an entire young generation grew up without any formal education. It tore the social fabric that used to unite people, and overturned traditional close relationships among families and communities. Its irreplaceable destruction of China’s cultural heritage left Chinese people in a spiritual and moral vacuum.

“Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.” We should be alarmed by the similarities between today’s American cultural revolution to China’s Cultural Revolution. Let’s never forget that evil can come from the pursuit of progress.  American’s cultural revolution is endangering the Republic we hold dear. To preserve it, we have to find “the energy of a common national sentiment” and re-affirm the “uniformity of principles” that once united us as Americans.



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MSNBC’s Morning Joe: The Democratic Party Is In a State of Absolute Disaster

Matt Vespa

The Monday morning broadcast of MSNBC’s Morning Joe featured the Democratic Party becoming a punching bag for bad fundraising, bad leadership, and having absolutely zero sense of direction. For a party that has high hopes for the 2018 midterms, it could end in disaster if they don’t get their intraparty squabbles in order—and neither side wants to budge. The Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren wing is committed to pushing the party to the Left, while the Obama/Clinton wing wants to prevent a Leninist takeover of the party.

The New York Times’ Bret Stephens commented that he doesn’t know what the Democratic Party stand for other than hating Trump, noting that voters see them as contemptuous of ordinary Americans and their struggles. On top of that, there is a push from the hard Left to relegate white working class voters to their fate, something that Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) rejects. These voters are not die-hard Republicans; they’re swing voters, which Boyle noted by referencing the fact that Obama won Luzerne County and Scranton twice, even John Kerry was able to win in these areas.

Former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. hit Democrats on the lack of messaging, noting that in the 23-24 districts that Democrats think they can pick off from the GOP, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is less popular than Trump. The polling is awful. He admits that without a local message and messengers to build a campaign around, it’s very hard for Democrats to win a majority. Also, there’s the other gut punch from Third Way, which noted that if Democrats were to turnout every Clinton voter who voted for a Republican member for Congress in 2016 and have them flip their vote, it still wouldn’t be enough to win back the House.

As Cortney wrote yesterday, the Democratic Party has been in a fundraising rut, posting its worst July month in a decade. This is due to the Republicans building a massive small donor base akin to that of President Barack Obama that’s keeping the war chest well stuffed. Another thing the MSNBC program touched upon was the notion that the Democratic brand is just a disaster. Axios’ Jonathan Swan noted this, noting the party has just been thrashed over the past year. He added that there is energy outside of the party, with groups like Indivisible, but that energy hasn’t translated into election wins; we saw that with Georgia’s special election. Again, we’re back to who's the leader and what direction the party is going to take because, as he said, a Cory Booker presidency would be very different from one with Elizabeth Warren behind the Resolute Desk. And yes, I just threw up a little in my mouth thinking about those results.


The New York Times’ Yamiche Alcindor also touched upon how the Democratic Party is leaderless, and that they still have yet to find their new identity. Right now, she added that it seems to be a fight between whether an old Democratic socialist is going to become the face of the party, or an equally aged liberal from New York (Schumer). That’s not necessarily very motivating. Alcindor also touched upon the Democrats’ thin bench and the need for fresh blood to takeover from a leadership team that’s increasingly looking like the participants of Bingo night at a retirement home.

In all, it was quite a thorough trashing of the Democratic Party. Both wings of the party think their direction is right. There will be no compromise here. I think it’s safe to assume the progressive blood sports will continue, so grab a beer or two.  

Flashback:


James Clapper Says He’s Worried About Trump’s Access To Nuclear Codes



CNN's Don Lemon discusses President Trump's Phoenix speech with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. (Youtube screen grab)
James Clapper Says He’s Worried About Trump’s Access To Nuclear Codes [VIDEO]
By Chuck Ross
23 Aug 2017, 09:30 AM

James Clapper, the director of the office of national intelligence under President Obama, saidTuesday nightthat he is worried about President Trump’s access to nuclear codes.

In an interview with CNN, Clapper also questioned Trump’s fitness for office and wondered whether the Republican is “looking for a way out” of the presidency.

Clapper, a CNN contributor, made the comments after Trump’s raucous campaign rally in Phoenix. As he did during last year’s campaign, Trump went after the media, which he called “disturbed” and “sick,” as well as Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake.

The fiery and aggressive speech contrasted with Trump’s scripted remarkson Monday night, when he addressed the nation about a plan to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan.

“I don’t know when I’ve listened and watched something like this from a president that I found disturbing,” Clapper told CNN’s Don Lemon of Tuesday’s speech, adding, “I found this downright scary and disturbing.”

Asked by Lemon whether he questions Trump’s fitness to serve as president, Clapper said he does.

“I really question his ability, his fitness to be in this office, and I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it. Maybe he is looking for a way out,” said Clapper.

“How much longer does the country have to, to borrow a phrase, endure this nightmare?” he asked.

Lemon pressed Clapper on whether he believes Trump is a threat to national security.

“Well, he certainly could be. Again, having some understanding of the levers that a president can exercise, I worry about, frankly, you know, the access to nuclear codes,” said Clapper, who noted that “there’s actually very little to stop” Trump from launching a nuclear weapon.

“Pretty damn scary,” he said.

WATCH:

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"Trump Should Have Followed His Instincts On Afghanistan"



U.S. soldiers stand guard near the site of a U.S. bombing in the Achin district of Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan April 15, 2017. (Reuters)
Trump Should Have Followed His Instincts On Afghanistan
By Scott Greer
23 Aug 2017, 01:30 AM

President Trump reversed himself on Afghanistan Monday in announcing thousands of more troops are heading to the war-torn nation.

In his addressMonday night, Trump admitted that he went against his instincts on doubling-down on America’s military commitment in Afghanistan.

“My original instinct was to pull out — and, historically, I like following my instincts. But all of my life, I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office,” the president stated.(RELATED: Trump Announces Plans To Stay In Afghanistan, Shift To ‘Conditions’ Based Withdrawal)

The person arguably most responsible for that change of mind is National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. It has long been reported that the Army general wanted more troops in Afghanistan — the problem was convincing the president to agree.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was a vocal opponent of increasing troop numbers and urged for a gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan. Trump himself agreed with this sentiment in numerous past statements on Twitter.

“We should leave Afghanistan immediately. No more wasted lives,” he tweeted back in 2013. “If we have to go back in, we go in hard & quick. Rebuild the US first.”(RELATED: Trump Has Been Against The War In Afghanistan For Years)

But McMaster was apparently able to convince Trump with the help of one picture. The national security advisor was able to persuade about the promise of staying in Afghanistan with an image of Afghan women wearing short skirts in the 1970s.(RELATED: McMaster Showed Trump Picture Of Afghan Women In Skirts To Sell Troop Increase)

To McMaster, this was proof that Afghanistan could embrace western norms and it’s America’s job to spread them to the people. It appears Trump agreed.

The United States has been in the Asian country for almost 16 years. A child born in 2001 will soon be able to fight in the war that has been going on for his entire life.

What are we going to do differently now that will convince the locals to be just like us?

The answer is that we are not going to do any differently, and we’re still sticking to the same delusions that buttressed the nation-building frenzy of the Bush years.

Trump may say that this he’s not engaged in nation-building, but he was convinced to stay in Afghanistan on the basis that we could make the country more western. That sounds awfully like our mission in the country is nation-building.

The most important question to ask for American involvement in Afghanistan is what is victory?

Is it the total neutralization of the Taliban? Is it making sure ISIS and al-Qaeda no longer find safe haven there? Is it ensuring a western-style democracy is well-entrenched and capable of defending itself without U.S. aid?

What makes it confusing for the public is that the answer we’re getting from our leaders is a vague blending of all three. Politicians will say we can’t leave with ISIS there — even though the terror group wasn’t there when we first invaded in 2001 — and we just have to stay put longer to make sure the country becomes more like us.

America has been there for 16 years and there are only few signs of progress. The Taliban is still around andnearly as strongas it was before we arrived. Western values and norms are mostly absent in a country where Islamic fundamentalism still dominates. It doesn’t appear that whatever government we set up will last long without the aid of American arms.

The situation in Afghanistan resembles, in some ways, another foreign entanglement that General McMaster knows very well: Vietnam. The national security advisor wrote acritically acclaimed bookin 1997 on the Vietnam conflict and how the generals didn’t do enough to warn the civilian leadership of the grave dangers of American escalation in that country.

In Vietnam, America helped prop up a South Vietnamese regime that couldn’t last on its own, we faced an enemy we couldn’t defeat by military means and we had a hard time defining what victory meant. Some thought more troops were the solution to bringing peace to Vietnam, similar to what is proposed today in Afghanistan.

But it’s hard to eradicate an enemy that continues to spring up among the population you’re trying to win over — and no amount of soldiers can solve that problem.

All the blood and resources America put into the southeast Asian nation ended up with it turning into a communist state right after we left. Similarly, if we leave Afghanistan, there is a strong chance it will revert back to the control of the Taliban.

That seems like a terrible situation for the U.S., but is the present stalemate any better? The nation is still a harbor for terrorism and we can’t stop Pakistan from undermining our efforts to wipe out Islamic militants.

Dozens of brave young Americans have to come home every year in caskets due to our continued involvement. We spend billions of dollars to maintain our commitment.

Is all this worth it to keep the terrible status quo?

We eventually left Vietnam because the American people were sick of seeing our boys fight and die in the jungle for a cause that wasn’t clear. The difference is then we had the draft, today we don’t.

Trump’s speech is one of the first times Afghanistan became a major news item in recent years. For the most part, we ignore it and forget that there’s young Americans fighting and dying every day there.

Most polling shows that Americans want us out of the country, but it’s not a pressing issue when few have to suffer from it.

Hopefully, Trump listens to his instincts and reassess American commitment when he’s up for reelection.

Follow Scott on Twitterand buy his new book, “No Campus for White Men.”

The Insatiable Left

Trump threatens to shut down government to build border wall

Trump threatens to shut down government to build border wall
By Brooke Seipel - 08-22-17 23:14 PM EDT

President Trump on Tuesday threatened to shut down the government, if necessary, to make sure his proposed wall at the Mexican border is approved and funded by lawmakers.

"Build that wall. Now the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it, but believe me if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall," Trump said Tuesday during a rally in Phoenix.

Funding for Trump's proposed border wall, a promise that was at the center of his 2016 presidential bid, is poised to be the center of debate this fall as Congress negotiates a new government funding bill.

If a new bill is not passed, the government will shut down on Oct. 1.

Democrats, however, are staunchly opposed to funding for the wall, setting up a challenge and tense negotiations over the government's funding.

The Department of Homeland Security accepted designs for the wall earlier this year. Vendors were instructed that the wall should be at least 18 feet high, have features to prevent climbing over and tunneling beneath the structure, and to make the designs "aesthetically pleasing" on the U.S. side.

7 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2018

7 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2018
By Ben Kamisar and Lisa Hagen - 08-22-17 15:20 PM EDT

Next year's midterm elections will provide Republicans with a major opportunity to build their majority in the Senate - if they can overcome President Trump's dismal approval ratings and internal party rancor.

The 2018 Senate map heavily favors Republicans, who will only defend eight seats, just two of which are considered vulnerable right now. By comparison, Democrats have to defend 25 seats, including 10 in states that Trump won in 2016.

Despite the rough landscape, Democrats received a handful of breaks in the early months of 2017. But with so few offensive opportunities, Democrats will have to thread the needle in deep-red states just to tread water.

Here are the seven most vulnerable Senate seats of the 2018 midterm elections as they stand now.

  1. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) 

Heller is the only Republican up for reelection in 2018 who represents a state that Hillary Clinton won last November. Making matters worse for Heller, he's had a rough 2017.

His public wavering during the recent healthcare debate will hurt Heller in a state he won with only 46 percent of the vote in 2012, especially since his state accepted ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion. By the end of the GOP ObamaCare repeal push, a poll from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found him with a 22 percent approval rating.

Democrats are largely falling in line behind Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), a strong challenger with backing from former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the dean of Nevada Democrats. Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) is still weighing a bid, but Democrats' near-uniform support for Rosen could squeeze Titus out of the race and give the party more time to focus on Heller.

In the meantime, Rosen and Democratic groups have hammered Heller on his healthcare position. Perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian will challenge Heller in the GOP primary from the right, a fight that could hurt Heller with the Republican base. But as an incumbent, Heller will have heavy reinforcements from Washington Republicans who are committed to helping one of their own.

  1. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)

McCaskill is one of the few statewide Democratic officeholders left in Missouri, which Trump won by 19 points in November.

The two-term senator spent 2016 as one of Hillary Clinton's top surrogates, mounting a strong defense of the Democratic presidential nominee that McCaskill's rivals believe will become a weakness in her own campaign.

McCaskill's party also just lost Missouri's 2016 Senate race, despite a strong campaign from Democrat Jason Kander.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) continues to move closer to a bid, as key state Republicans push to unite around him after he won his 2016 election with more votes than Trump. And he'll likely have some serious financial backing - Politico reported last week that the Club for Growth has banked $10 million to support Hawley.

But Hawley is new to elected office, and McCaskill is a strong fundraiser. She pulled in more than any of the other vulnerable Democratic incumbents in the second quarter of 2017, leaving her with $5.1 million in the bank.

  1. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.)

Donnelly leveraged a bipartisan approach to politics and his blue-collar appeal into a Senate seat in 2012, but he'll have to fight yet another tough battle if he wants to keep his Senate seat in a state Trump won by 19 points.

Republican Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer are engaged in a nasty primary. Messer is considered the more establishment Republican option, but Rokita surprised many observers with a strong second fundraising quarter where he outraised Messer by more than $400,000 and topped him in cash on hand.

The brutal primary could play to Donnelly's favor, sapping resources from the eventual Republican nominee and leaving wounds that could take some time to heal. But Republicans are seizing on a recent report that Donnelly owned stock in a family company that outsources jobs to Mexico, even as he publicly criticized other companies for sending jobs out of the country.

  1. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)

Flake wouldn't rank this high in a normal election year, but a Republican president threatening to support a primary challenge to an incumbent GOP senator isn't normal, either.

The Arizona senator's path to reelection has grown more difficult as his feud with Trump heats up. Earlier in August, Trump called Flake "toxic" in a tweet where he applauded Kelli Ward, Flake's primary opponent. And the president's upcoming Tuesday rally in Arizona could give him a stage to take more shots at Flake or even officially endorse a primary opponent.

Complicating Flake's path is Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who confirmed this week that she's still considering a bid.

Flake will have the backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a score of outside groups that look to protect GOP incumbents, whether or not they have Trump's support. And Republicans have so far been successful at keeping a statewide Democratic push at bay. But keep an eye on how far Trump is willing to go in the primary - that could be a major factor.

  1. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)

In 2016, West Virginia went for Trump by a larger margin than any other state - 42 points.

That resounding victory hasn't been lost on Manchin, who's made it a point to try to work with the president and Senate GOP colleagues. Another factor counting in his favor: Manchin's consistent record of winning statewide office in the West Virginia since 2001, despite the state's rightward drift.

But Trump's popularity in West Virginia has drawn interest from strong Republican candidates, and the winner will pose a serious threat to Manchin's political future. And Democrats can't be encouraged by Gov. Jim Justice's decision to ditch them and become a Republican last month, a decision he announced with Trump at his side.

Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) are locked in another tough primary, as each tries to capture the mantle of being the "true conservative" in the race. The gloves have come off as Jenkins tries to frame Morrisey as late to the Trump bandwagon, while Morrisey focuses on Jenkins's history as a Democratic state legislator.

  1. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)

Heitkamp hails from another deep-red state - North Dakota went for Trump by about 36 points.

Like Manchin, Heitkamp has walked the line between the party's opposition to Trump and his popularity among her constituents - briefly floated as a potential Agriculture Secretary, Heitkamp, like Manchin, voted for more than two-thirds of Trump's Cabinet appointments.

While Heitkamp hasn't announced whether she'll run for reelection, her steady fundraising pace keeps the door for another bid wide open. Heitkamp had $3 million in the bank as of the end of June - more than half the total she spent during her entire 2012 bid.

Heitkamp received her first challenger this week when state Sen. Tom Campbell, who is framing himself as an outsider who better exemplifies the values of voters in the conservative state, entered the race. Campbell might not have the primary field to himself, though - Rep. Kevin Cramer (R) is mulling a bid of his own.

  1. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) 

Republicans have a lot to like about their Montana prospects. Trump won the state by more than 20 points in November, and Republican Greg Gianforte just won the state's at-large congressional seat in a special election - even after he assaulted a reporter.

Tester has never hit 50 percent in either of his two Senate bids, winning each election with 49 percent after a libertarian candidate siphoned off part of the vote.

But Tester, a former chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, is no stranger to a tough fight and has forged his own brand in the state separate from the national Democratic Party that's allowed him to outperform a typical Democratic candidate.

Republicans are going into battle without the candidates they wanted, as former Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) is now secretary of the Interior and Attorney General Tim Fox opted to run for governor instead. State Auditor Matt Rosendale appears to be the favorite in the GOP, with businessman Troy Downing and state Sen. Albert Olszewski also in the mix.

Other races to watch

There are five other Democrats running in states Trump won - Sens. Bill Nelson (Fla.), Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio). These five do not yet seem as vulnerable as the others, but the races could move up the rankings depending on how primaries shake out.

Florida Republicans are in a holding pattern as Gov. Rick Scott (R) weighs a bid, since his entry would immediately clear the field and give Nelson a top-tier challenger. Casey and Baldwin are waiting to see how the large GOP primary fields taking them on shake out.

Musician Kid Rock is mulling a bid against Stabenow. And Brown could face a rematch against his 2012 opponent, state treasurer Josh Mandel, but some state Republicans aren't excited about his campaign and are looking for other options.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Neocons cheer Trump's Afghanistan strategy

Neocons cheer Trump's Afghanistan strategy
By Jonathan Easley - 08-22-17 12:12 PM EDT

The neoconservative wing of the Republican Party is applauding President Trump's troop surge in Afghanistan, even as members of the president's base accuse him of capitulating to the national security establishment.

Foreign policy hawks in the Senate - including two of Trump's fiercest GOP critics, Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and John McCain (Ariz.) - praised Trump for going against his "instinct" and delegating the decision to his generals, who convinced him that victory could be had in the 16-year war that has spanned three administrations.

"I'm proud. I'm relieved," Graham said on Fox News after Trump's Monday night address.

"I'm proud of the fact that President Trump made a national security decision, not a political decision. I'm proud of the fact that he listened to the generals, and I'm most proud of the fact that he showed the will to stand up to radical Islam. I'm relieved he did not take the advice to withdraw, which would have been disastrous, or create a mercenary army, so I'm very pleased. Very thoughtful, very inspiring speech, and I can assure you a lot of people in Congress will be behind the president."

McCain said Trump was moving beyond former President Obama's "failed strategy of merely postponing defeat," adding that it was "especially important" that Trump did not commit to a timeline for withdrawal.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), another proponent of muscular U.S. foreign policy, called Trump's strategy "the right approach."

Support is also coming from neoconservative writers and thinkers who had long been worried that Trump, who ran on an "America First" platform, would take a more isolationist approach to foreign policy.

John Podhoretz, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and the editor of the conservative magazine Commentary, reacted to the speech by saying it's almost as if Bush's former deputy secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, has been put in charge.

"President Trump's decision to recommit to Afghanistan was right and important," wrote American Enterprise Institute scholar Fred Kagan, another proponent of neoconservatism.

The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, a "Never Trump" Republican and neocon, reveled in the fact that Trump's generals appeared to have won the power struggle over his nationalist advisers, like former chief strategist Stephen Bannon.

Bannon has returned to Breitbart News after being forced out of the White House, in part because of his inability to get along with Trump's top military advisers, including national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

Breitbart ran a story on Tuesday saying that "Trump's 'America First' base" is unhappy with the president's "flip-flop Afghanistan speech," along with a host of stories highlighting GOP establishment support for Trump's new strategy.

"President Trump's 'America First' base was the biggest loser of Trump's speech on Afghanistan Monday night, and many quickly expressed their disappointment at the business-as-usual address from the president who had once promised to limit American intervention abroad and focus on nation-building at home," Breitbart reporter Adam Shaw wrote.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a non-interventionist whose views on foreign policy are derided by the conservative foreign policy establishment, bemoaned the costs to the military and taxpayers for the continuing war.

"I strongly disagree with the president's actions here. If the president and my colleagues want to continue the war in Afghanistan, then at the very least Congress should vote on it. I'll insist they do it this fall, and I'll be leading the charge for 'no.' "

Laura Ingraham, the pro-Trump anti-establishment conservative radio personality, tweeted: