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Week in Review

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08/19/2017

For the week 8/14-8/18

[Posted 11:30 PM ET, Friday]

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Edition 958

The following is extremely long and I wouldn’t expect anyone to read it all, but this is a running history and it was an historical week, so it requires a bit more examination.

This coming week could offer more of the same.  President Trump is due to speak at a rally in Arizona, which could be explosive, while there will be large-scale war exercises on the Korean Peninsula and surrounding waters. Dubbed Ulchi Freedom Guardian, some 17,500 U.S. service members as well as troops from South Korea and six other countries are taking part.  Certainly you’d expect Kim to fire off a bottle rocket or two in defiance.

But I was kind of surprised by a tweet from President Trump late this afternoon.  He was back in Bedminster after a meeting at Camp David today with Mike Pence and members of his national security team.

I thought he was spending at least part of the weekend there to strategize with the vice president in depth after this chaotic week. What am I missing?  The Camp David meeting, discussed below, couldn’t have been more than like three hours.

I start this week with North Korea because it is still the most important item.  What’s my adage?  ‘Wait 24 hours.’  Nothing has changed here.

But I break down Charlottesville below, I have a discussion on the CEO situation in the ‘Street Bytes’ section, and I get into the statuary issue in ‘Random Musings,’ all in depth.

I also had written a lot about Steve Bannon before he was fired this afternoon, and I’m leaving it as is.  It’s part of the record.  We will learn very quickly just how dangerous Bannon will now be on the outside...to Donald Trump, the Republican establishment, key agenda items, you name it.  For now, he’s right back at Breitbart.

Trump Blew It, Bigly...North Korea, Kim Blinked....

I wrote the following in “Week in Review,” 10/30/2010, from Guam:

“I find this to be the perfect place to break up a long trip of this kind and usually spend at least one night here to catch up on the world, and/or write.  I always stay on the main tourist drag, with beautiful views of the bay and ocean, plus the outdoor spots for having a burger and beer are a perfect place to watch the world go by.

“But Guam is also the site of a huge U.S. military buildup as we move our troops from the Philippines and Japan to here, and, according to the plan, eventually South Korea as well. The United States won’t have to worry about offending the locals here as they do in the other spots, though Washington must fulfill its promises to the people of Guam when it comes to needed improvements on the infrastructure front (namely roads and sewers with thousands of personnel and their families being added to the population base).  I’ve toured the island enough to know there are major issues in this regard.  It would also be nice if the military could eradicate the brown tree snake, but perhaps when world peace has broken out they can tackle this one.

“You see, Guam is a key hub for the Pacific Fleet, being close enough to protect not only our own interests in the key shipping lanes out this way, but also those of our allies such as South Korea and Japan. Some say, though, that our military assets aren’t as close as they should be, but given the politics of the Far East these days, I don’t see where else we could put them.

“The future also holds that Guam could become a huge target of its own in any conflict with, say, China, let alone if North Korea can improve on its rocketry beyond the water balloon phase. So I’m assuming the locals understand this as well. All the more reason why the American people need to understand just why we will be shelling out as much as we are going to here.  It’s a topic worthy of an Oval Office address next year.  It’s what presidents are supposed to do...educate the people on matters of import.”

[Ed. of course President Obama didn’t, and President Trump will just tweet stuff.]

So this week....

Saturday, in a phone call with President Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged Trump to avoid rhetoric that could exacerbate tensions with North Korea.

Sunday, in a joint op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sent a conciliatory message to Pyongyang.

“The U.S. has no interest in regime change or accelerated reunification of Korea. We do not seek an excuse to garrison U.S. troops north of the Demilitarized Zone,” quite different from President Trump’s talk of “fire and fury.”

Tillerson and Mattis said the U.S. aims “to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a dismantling of the regime’s ballistic-missile programs....

“While diplomacy is our preferred means of changing North Korea’s course of action, it is backed by military options....

“The U.S. is willing to negotiate with Pyongyang.  But given the long record of North Korea’s dishonesty in negotiations and repeated violations of international agreements, it is incumbent upon the regime to signal its desire to negotiate in good faith. A sincere indication would be the immediate cessation of its provocative threats, nuclear tests, missile launches and other weapons tests....

“North Korea now faces a choice. Take a new path toward peace, prosperity and international acceptance, or continue further down the dead alley of belligerence, poverty and isolation. The U.S. will aspire and work for the former, and will remain vigilant against the latter.”

Monday, Defense Secretary Mattis warned that a missile launched at the United States or its territories would be considered an act of war.

“If they shoot at the United States, I’m assuming they hit the United States. If they do that, it’s game on.”

Tuesday, North Korea pulled back its threat to attack Guam after China took steps the day before to ban imports of North Korean coal, iron and seafood to support the recently adopted U.N. sanctions.

Pyongyang’s state media said Kim had been briefed on a plan to fire missiles towards Guam, and that Kim would watch the actions of the United States for a while longer before making a decision on how to respond.

“The United States, which was the first to bring numerous strategic nuclear equipment near us, should first make the right decision and show through actions if they wish to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula and prevent a dangerous military clash,” Kim was quoted as saying.

President Trump tweeted: “Kim Jong Un of North Korea made a very wise and well-reasoned decision. The alternative would have been both catastrophic and unacceptable!”

But state media said Tuesday, Kim could change his mind “if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions.”

What’s different this time, compared with a similar climbdown in the summer of 1994, when the Pentagon had plans to strike a small nuclear reactor within North Korea, is that Kim and his Orcs are continuing to perfect their missile program.  He is playing his old game of threats and then pull back, which buys more time; including for trade to resume normally once China lightens up, as is inevitable.

There can be a difference of opinion as to how advanced the North Korean program is, but does that really matter when we’ve seen the progress to date?  The technological breakthroughs, especially in the last two years, are a game changer.

Thursday, Tillerson and Mattis stressed that a military response remained on the table, a day after White House strategist Steve Bannon said there can be no military solution to the crisis.

At a joint news conference, Mattis and Tillerson affirmed that North Korea would face dire consequences if it went ahead with an attack.  [While in an interview with American Prospect, Wednesday, Bannon said there could be no military solution because tens of millions in South Korea would die in the first 30 minutes of any conflict.  I have more on this interview in “Random Musings.”]

Also Thursday, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, told reporters while in Beijing that President Trump had directly “told us to develop credible, viable military options and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”  Dunford was responding to questions on Bannon’s comments.

Dunford added: “As long as the threat in North Korea exists we need to maintain a high state of readiness to respond to that threat.”

The key now is can the U.S., Japan and South Korea get Kim to stop the missile launches?

South Korean President Moon Jae-in weighed in: “Military action on the Korean peninsula can only be decided by the Republic of Korea and no one may decide to take military action without the consent of the Republic of Korea,” a clear message that Seoul wanted to avoid war at all costs.

But Moon added there could be no dialogue before the North halts its “nuclear and missile provocations.”

With the U.S. and South Korean military forces gearing up to start large-scale air, land and sea maneuvers, the rhetoric between Pyongyang and Washington is bound to ratchet up all over again.

For its part, China called on the U.S. and South Korea to suspend the exercises as a show of good faith, but this was a non-starter.

In a CBS News Poll, most Americans say the U.S. should not threaten North Korea with military action, but would approve of it if diplomacy does not eventually stop its nuclear program.  But of course it breaks down along partisan lines.

Q: Should U.S. threaten military action against North Korea?

Total:  33% should; 59% should not. [63% Republicans should, 30% should not; 11% Democrats should, 82% should not.]

Q: Would you approve of military action if diplomacy doesn’t work?

Total: 58% approve; 34% disapprove. [80% Republicans approve, 16% disapprove; 43% Democrats approve, 50% disapprove.]

Q: President Trump’s ability to handle the North Korean nuclear situation:

Total: 38% confident; 59% uneasy. [77-22 Republicans; 6-90 Democrats.]

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has ordered its first probe into Chinese trade practices, though the president has said he would be amenable to going easy on Beijing if it were more aggressive in reining in North Korea.  U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is to determine if an investigation is warranted of “any of China’s laws, policies, practices or actions that may be unreasonable or discriminatory, and that may be harming American intellectual property , innovation and technology,” according to the administration.  [Heck, China violates  everything!]

But should the recommendation be to then launch a formal investigation, that could then take a year to conclude. 

Finally, last week I wrote of the Winter Olympics being held in South Korea and how this was nuts.  Today, the Wall Street Journal had a story that read in part, “North Korea is looming as an ominous problem months ahead of the Games.”

A French official told the Associated Press that the situation would be discussed at an upcoming IOC meeting, adding: “There is no reason to be too worried at the moment.  Of course if the tension escalates, we’ll need to adapt.”

Once the Games start, though, it’s too late.

One thing the U.S. could do, if we’re in the same situation then as we are now, is to postpone war exercises with South Korea for a spell during the Olympics; reduce the rhetoric for the month before and a few weeks after, but it will depend on Kim’s actions.

Mark Helprin / Wall Street Journal

“The North Korean nuclear crisis can be defused peacefully and to America’s advantage if its elements are perceived with strategic clarity, and if U.S. leaders recognize that diplomacy depends less upon signals than upon maneuver.

“Kim Jong Un is not entirely irrational. The purpose of his nuclear program is not to court annihilation but to deter American military options on the Korean Peninsula and change the correlation of forces in his favor.  North Korea created chemical and biological arsenals that effectively neutralized American tactical nuclear weapons and led to their withdrawal. What we see now is an amplification of that strategy, with the object of eventually driving American forces from Korea.

“It is extremely unlikely that Mr. Kim would strike, if at all, before his nuclear forces have matured in numbers and reliability. Relatively few of his delivery systems or miniaturized warheads have been extensively tested.   Nor have they been proven to work together. And the U.S. and Japan have multiple layers of midcourse and terminal-phase missile defenses.

“Thus, time remains to set in motion options on the escalation ladder between the fatal extremes of either doing nothing or taking precipitous military action. The problem is that these opportunities have not been exploited, the focus having been too much on Pyongyang rather than on Beijing, which can both completely shut down the North Korean economy and credibly threaten military intervention.

“To the extent that China is shifting, it is because it fears a war on its border, understands what such a war would do to its own and the world’s economy, fears even more that Japan and South Korea might develop nuclear deterrents, and sees that its nuclear calculus has been disrupted by the Thaad radar’s ability to enhance American missile defense via forwarding data on Chinese missile launches in boost phase.

“But this is not enough. As the last U.S. ambassador to China James Lilley said: ‘You won’t get anything from them unless you squeeze them.’  In view of America’s disappearing red lines, repeated nuclear capitulations to North Korea and Iran, the largely substanceless ‘pivot’ to Asia, and our passivity in the South China Sea, China will wait to see if we fold....

“Nothing would rivet China’s attention more than if the U.S. formally announced that absent the abolition of North Korea’s nuclear capacity it would look with favor upon and assist with a Japanese and/or South Korean nuclear deterrent, and then established a commission for this purpose. So as to de-link North Korea from the South China Sea, the U.S. should at this point make clear to China it is weighing supply of coastal anti-shipping missiles to the Philippines and Vietnam.  Establishing such a gauntlet to preserve sovereign rights and freedom of navigation is long overdue.

“These maneuvers well short of war can rebalance power, instill caution, and stabilize the increasingly volatile Western Pacific, as well as contribute to stability elsewhere. A cost-benefit analysis objectively applied will so depress the value to China of a rogue North Korea that China should find common ground with us in coordinating action and point of view. The choice need not be between capitulation and war, silence and bluster. But only if the United States decides upon carrying a bigger stick and speaking more softly.”

Reaction to Charlottesville....

Friday...Neo-Nazis and white supremacists marched through the historic University of Virginia campus with torches and Nazi garb, chanting among other vile things, “Jews will not replace us.”

Longtime poli-sci professor and elections expert, Larry Sabato, has been a fixture at Virginia, both as a student and academic, for decades.  Living right there on the quad, he said it was “scary.”  The video sure made it out to be.

Saturday....One woman was killed when a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters who’d gathered to oppose a rally by white nationalists and others who oppose a plan to remove from a Charlottesville park a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Two state troopers, whose helicopter had been following developments from the air, then died when their chopper crashed.

About two hours after we learned of the car attack, President Trump emerged at a previously scheduled appearance at his golf resort in New Jersey with Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.  Trump avoided any assignment of blame.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” he said, repeating the final phrase for emphasis.

“It’s been going on for a long time in our country; it’s not Donald Trump, it’s not Barack Obama,” he added, without specifying what ‘it’ is.

I watched this and was incredulous. I called our own Dr. Bortrum and said this was a watershed moment.

Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe said later on Saturday, “There is no place for (white nationalists) here.  There is no place for you in America.”

“So please, go home and never come back. Take your hatred and your bigotry.”

Sunday....Trump stayed silent while the White House defended his failure to explicitly condemn white supremacists over the Charlottesville violence.

Vice President Mike Pence, on a trip to South America, did condemn them.

“We have no tolerance for hate and violence, white supremacists or neo-Nazis or the KKK,” but he said the president was saying the same thing.

“President Trump clearly and unambiguously condemned the bigotry, violence and hatred that took place in the streets of Charlottesville.”

Pence said Trump spoke “from the heart.” The vice president also criticized the media for reporting on the criticism of Trump’s response.

“I take issue with the fact that many in the national media spent more time criticizing the president’s words than they did criticizing those that perpetuated the violence to begin with,” Pence said.

Sunday morning on “Meet the Press,” National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster attempted to stick up for his boss.

“The president has been very clear; we cannot tolerate this kind of bigotry, this kind of hatred. And what he did is he called on all Americans to take a firm stance against it. The president called out anyone who is responsible for fomenting this kind of bigotry, hatred, racism and violence.  I think the president was very clear on that.”

Monday....Trump went on damage control, changing his schedule to address the growing outrage over his tepid reaction to the violence initiated by neo-Nazis two days earlier.

In remarks read off a teleprompter at the White House that were moved up three hours, the president said:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America....

“Those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” naming for the first time the groups that sparked the rioting....

“We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal. We are equal in the eyes of our creator. We are equal under the law, and we are equal under our Constitution. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America,” adding that the Justice Department had opened a civil rights investigation into the violence.

“To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable.”

Trump took no questions, and started out by patting himself on the back for his accomplishments since taking office.

“Our economy is now strong. The stock market continues to hit record highs. Businesses are more optimistic than ever before.  Companies are moving back to the United States and bringing many thousands of jobs with them. We have already created over 1 million jobs since I took office,” he said. 

The president forces me once again to say the jobs growth is slightly less than 2016!

Editorial / Washington Post

“(What) punch do the right words pack when they are so obviously begrudging, belated and bestowed under the weight of overwhelming pressure?  Will white supremacists such as Richard Spencer, who gleefully noted that Mr. Trump’s initial statement blamed the violence on ‘many sides,’ while saying nothing about racists, really feel the sting of rebuke?”

And, indeed, later Monday, after calling out the KKK and white supremacists, Trump appeared to regret it and tweeted around 6:30 p.m.: “Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the #FakeNews Media will never be satisfied...truly bad people!”

It was a hint of things to come.

Tuesday....President Trump started out by holding an informal news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, intended to showcase his infrastructure program and the easing of regulations on the construction industry.

But it suddenly went way off the rails in a back-and-forth with reporters that the president’s aides in no way intended for their boss to get into.

Facing a barrage of questions from reporters about why he did not immediately condemn racist protesters and the KKK by name on Saturday (though he did Monday), Trump said there is “blame on both sides.”

“What about the alt-left that came charging at the – as you say, the alt-right?” Trump asked.  “Do they have any semblance of guilt? What about the fact they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs?  Do they have any problem?  I think they do. As far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day.”

“I will tell you something,” the president continued.  “I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it. And you had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent.

“And nobody wants to say that. But I’ll say it right now.  You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent.”

But he added there were “very fine people on both sides.”

Trump also said that not all of those attending the white nationalist “Unite the Right” protest were racists. Some, said the president, were only there to protest the taking down of a Confederate statue.

“I have condemned neo-Nazis. I have condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me,” said the president.  “Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee.”

When it came to Saturday’s statement and his failure to specifically condemn Nazi and white supremacist groups, Trump said that “before I make a statement, I like to know the facts,” which is laughable, to say the least...given his track record.

On the issue of taking down statues, Trump said: “This week, it is Robert E. Lee and then Stonewall Jackson.  Is it George Washington next?  You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”  [Ed. I have much more on this specific topic down below.]

In response to the president’s performance, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke tweeted: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth.”

White nationalist leader Richard Spencer, who participated in the weekend’s demonstrations and vowed to flood Charlottesville with similar protests in the coming weeks, was equally encouraged.  “Trump’s statement was fair and down to earth,” Spencer tweeted.

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia immediately accused the president of adding to the divisions that put an unwanted spotlight on Charlottesville.

“Neo-Nazis, Klansmen and white supremacists came to Charlottesville heavily armed, spewing hatred and looking for a fight. One of them murdered a young woman in an act of domestic terrorism, and two of our finest officers were killed in a tragic accident while serving to protect this community. This was not ‘both sides.’”

Back at Trump Tower, you could see the frustration on the face of the likes of chief of staff John Kelly, let alone National Economic Council Chairman Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, both of whom are Jewish.

Wednesday....Trump stayed silent on Charlottesville, but the CEOs went off, as described below.

Thursday....President Trump hit back at his critics and reiterated his opposition to the removal of monuments to the pro-slavery Civil War Confederacy, tweeting:

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.  You can’t change history, but you can learn from it....

“Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”

[A CBS News Poll revealed that 34% approve of President Trump’s response to Charlottesville, 55% disapprove.  67-22 Republicans; 10-82 Democrats; 32-53 Independents.]

Statements from Congressional and other figures....

House Speaker Paul Ryan: “We must be clear.   White supremacy is repulsive.  This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for.  There can be no moral ambiguity.”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) said Trump’s remarks were dividing the nation and at odds with many Republicans’ views.  “Your words are dividing Americans, not healing them.  (Trump) took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and” others opposed to such groups.

Separately, Graham said on Fox News Sunday: “(Trump) missed an opportunity to be very explicit here.”  The white nationalists “seem to believe they have a friend in Donald Trump in the White House...I would urge the president to dissuade them of the [idea] that he is sympathetic to their cause.”

[Thursday, Trump tweeted, “Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer. Such a disgusting lie. He just can’t forget his election trouncing.  The people of South Carolina will remember!”  Graham then replied: “Because of the manner in which you have handled the Charlottesville tragedy you are now receiving praise from some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country. For the sake of our Nation – as our President – please fix this.”]

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.): “The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate.

“Having watched the horrifying video of the car deliberately crashing into a crowd of protesters, I urge the Department of Justice to immediately investigate and prosecute this grotesque act of domestic terrorism.”

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.): “The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win. We cannot allow this old evil to be resurrected....Very important for the nation to hear [Trump] describe events in Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by white supremacists.”

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah): “We should call evil by its name.  My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.): “Mr. President, we must call evil by its name.”

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.): “The #WhiteSupremacy in #Charlottesville does not reflect the values of the America I know.  Hate and bigotry have no place in this country.”

[Thursday, Trump tweeted on Flake (“Flake Jeff Flake”): “WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!”...as he seemed to endorse Flake’s 2018 primary opponent Dr. Kelli Ward.

Republican Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.): “Domestic terror in #Charlottesville must be condemned by every single one of us.  Otherwise hate is simply emboldened.”

Ivanka Trump: “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazis. We must all come together as Americans – and be one country UNITED.”

Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s former communications director, on ABC’s This Week: “I wouldn’t have recommended that statement. I think he needed to be much harsher as it related to the white supremacists.  It’s actually terrorism, whether it’s domestic or international terrorism.  With the moral authority of the presidency you have to call that stuff out.”

In a rare joint statement, former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, implicitly condemned Trump’s reaction to the violence.

“As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city’s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights.  We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country.”

GOP pollster Frank Luntz said, “The one thing the president still has going for him is his lock on Trump voters. He hasn’t won any converts, and the establishment has turned against him, but he still controls his base.”

Justin Moore, the “grand dragon” of the North Carolina-based Loyal White Knights of Ku Klux Klan, said he was “glad” a woman was killed while protesting the rally.

“I’m sorta glad that them people got hit, and I’m glad that girl died,” Moore said in a voicemail for a reporter at WBTV in Charlotte.  “To me, they were a bunch of communists out there protesting against somebody’s freedom of speech, so it doesn’t bother me that they got hurt at all.”

Former President Barack Obama, quoting Nelson Mandela: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion...”

Republican Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), Thursday:  “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs to demonstrate in order for him to be successful – and our nation and our world needs for him to be successful, whether you are Republican or Democrat.”

Corker continued: “(Trump) also recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation. He has not demonstrated that he understands what has made this nation great and what it is today.  And he’s got to demonstrate the characteristics of a president who understands that.  Without the things I just mentioned happening, our nation is going to go through great peril.”

Sen. Tim Scott, in an interview with Vice News, questioned the president’s moral authority following Charlottesville: “I’m not going to defend the indefensible...[Trump’s] comments on Monday were strong.  His comments on Tuesday started erasing the comments that were strong. What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority.  And that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happened.  There’s no question about that.”  [Scott added that Trump hasn’t reached out to him to discuss Charlottesville...which is amazing.]

Opinion....

Michael Gerson / Washington Post

“One of the difficult but primary duties of the modern presidency is to speak for the nation in times of tragedy.  A space shuttle explodes. An elementary school is attacked.  The twin towers come down in a heap of ash and twisted steel.  It falls to the president to express something of the nation’s soul – grief for the lost, sympathy for the suffering, moral clarity in the midst of confusion, confidence in the unknowable purposes of God.

“Not every president does this equally well. But none have been incapable.  Until Donald Trump.

“Trump’s reaction to events in Charlottesville was alternately trite (‘come together as one’), infantile (‘very, very sad’) and meaningless (‘we want to study it’).  ‘There are so many great things happening in our country,’ he said, on a day when racial violence took a life.  At one level, this is the natural result of defining authenticity as spontaneity.  Trump and his people did not believe the moment worthy of rhetorical craft, worthy of serious thought.  The president is confident that his lazy musings are equal to history. They are not. They are babble in the face of tragedy.  They are an embarrassment and disservice to the country.”

Michael Eric Dyson / New York Times

“The late, great Gore Vidal said that we live in ‘The United States of Amnesia.’  Our fatal forgetfulness flares when white bigots come out of their closets, emboldened by the tacit cover they’re given by our president.  We cannot pretend that the ugly bigotry unleashed in the streets of Charlottesville, Va., this weekend has nothing to do with the election of Donald Trump.

“In attendance was white separatist David Duke, who declared that the alt-right unity fiasco ‘fulfills the promises of Donald Trump.’ In the meantime, Mr. Trump responded by offering false equivalencies between white bigots and their protesters.  His soft denunciations of hate ring hollow when he has white nationalist advisers like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller whispering in his ear....

“It is disheartening for black folk to see such a vile and despicable replay of history. Facing this unadorned hate tears open wounds from atrocities that we have confronted throughout our history.  It is depressing to explain to our children that what we confronted as children may be the legacy they bequeath to their children as well....

“Now is the time for every decent white American to prove he or she loves this country by actively speaking out against the scourge this bigotocracy represents.”

Editorial / Wall Street Journal (Sun. p.m.)

“As ever in this age of Donald Trump, politicians and journalists are reducing the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday to a debate over Mr. Trump’s words and intentions. That’s a mistake no matter what you think of the President, because the larger poison driving events like those in Virginia is identity politics and it won’t go away when Mr. Trump inevitably does.

“The particular pathology on display in Virginia was the white nationalist movement led today by the likes of Richard Spencer, David Duke and Brad Griffin. They alone are to blame for the violence that occurred when one of their own drove a car into peaceful protesters, killing a young woman and injuring 19 others....

“Mr. Trump was widely criticized for his initial statement Saturday afternoon that condemned the hatred ‘on many sides’ but failed to single out the white nationalists.  Notably, David Duke and his allies read Mr. Trump’s statement as attacking them and criticized the President for doing so....

“(But) as so often with Mr. Trump, his original statement missed an opportunity to speak like a unifying political leader.

“Yet the focus on Mr. Trump is also a cop-out because it lets everyone duck the deeper and growing problem of identity politics on the right and left.  The politics of white supremacy was a poison on the right for many decades, but the civil-rights movement rose to overcome it, and it finally did so in the mid-1960s with Martin Luther King Jr.’s language of equal opportunity and color-blind justice.

“That principle has since been abandoned, however, in favor of a new identity politics that again seeks to divide Americans by race, ethnicity, gender and even religion.  ‘Diversity’ is now the all-purpose justification for these divisions, and the irony is that America is more diverse and tolerant than ever.

“The problem is that the identity obsessives want to boil down everything in American life to these categories. In practice this means allocating political power, contracts, jobs and now even salaries in the private economy based on the politics of skin color or gender rather than merit or performance.  Down this road lies crude political tribalism, and James Damore’s recent Google dissent is best understood as a cri de coeur that we should aspire to something better.  Yet he lost his job merely for raising the issue.”

Editorial / The Economist

“Defenders of President Donald Trump offer two arguments in his favor – that he is a businessman who will curb the excesses of the state; and that he will help America stand tall again by demolishing the politically correct taboos of left-leaning, establishment elites.  From the start, these arguments looked like wishful thinking.  After Mr. Trump’s press conference in New York on August 15th they lie in ruins....

“In New York, as his new chief of staff looked on dejected, Mr. Trump let rip, stressing once again that there was blame ‘on both sides.’  He left no doubt which of those sides lies closer to his heart.

“Mr. Trump is not a white supremacist. He repeated his criticism of neo-Nazis and spoke out against the murder of Heather Heyer. Even so, his unsteady response contains a terrible message for Americans. Far from being the savior of the Republic, their president is politically inept, morally barren and temperamentally unfit for office....

“In difficult times a president has a duty to unite the nation.  Mr. Trump tried in Monday’s press conference, but could not sustain the effort for even 24 hours because he cannot get beyond himself.  A president needs to rise above the point-scoring and to act in the national interest.  Mr. Trump cannot see beyond the latest slight. Instead of grasping that his job is to honor the office he inherited, Mr. Trump is bothered only about honoring himself and taking credit for his supposed achievements.

“Presidents have come in many forms and still commanded the office. Ronald Reagan had a moral compass and the self-knowledge to delegate political tactics.  LBJ was a difficult man but had the skill to accomplish much that was good. Mr. Trump has neither skill nor self-knowledge, and this week showed that he does not have the character to change.

“This is a dangerous moment.  America is cleft in two. After threatening nuclear war with North Korea, musing about invading Venezuela and equivocating over Charlottesville, Mr. Trump still has the support of four-fifths of Republican voters. Such popularity makes it all the harder for the country to unite.

“This leads to the question of how Republicans in public life should treat Mr. Trump. Those in the administration face a hard choice. Some will feel tempted to resign. But his advisers, particularly the three generals sitting at the top of the Pentagon, the National Security Council and as Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, are better placed than anyone to curb the worst instincts of their commander-in-chief.

“For Republicans in Congress the choice should be clearer.  Many held their noses and backed Mr. Trump because they thought he would advance their agenda. That deal has not paid off.  Mr. Trump is not a Republican, but the solo star of his own drama. By tying their fate to his, they are harming their country and their party. His boorish attempts at plain speaking serve only to poison national life. Any gains from economic reform – and the booming stock market and low unemployment owe more to the global economy, tech firms and dollar weakness than to him – will come at an unacceptable price.

“Republicans can curb Mr. Trump if they choose to. Rather than indulging his outrages in the hope that something good will come of it, they must condemn them.  The best of them did so this week.  Others should follow.”

Editorial / New York Post

“Charlottesville wasn’t about the statue.

“Self-proclaimed ‘white nationalists’ have been using the Robert E. Lee monument as the pretext for a series of rallies to win attention and build their ranks. And the organizers are eager to bring in white supremacists, the Klan, neo-Nazis and their ilk.

“Any normal person of good will who did show up for the sake of the statue would take a look at the rest of the crowd and get the hell out.

“The vast majority of the counter-protesters turned out to oppose the Nazis, the Klan and anyone happy to march with them. Also in the ranks were some ‘antifa’ types – people nominally of the left who like to dress up as ninjas and get violent with anyone they see as ‘fascists.’

“Since this was the third rally within weeks, ‘each side’ (meaning most of the ‘nationalists’ and a fringe of the counter-protest) arrived armed, armored and ready to rumble.

“Charlottesville authorities made the huge mistake of not keeping the protesters and counter-protesters widely separated. Regardless of who made the first move, the whole situation was a powder keg set amid open flames.

“The villain who drove his car into a crowd took the whole thing up to the level of terrorism, but it was plenty toxic before then.

“Precious little in all this says anything about the debate among sane Americans, who are perfectly able to resolve the minor question of whether any monument should go by normal democratic means, without a host of out-of-towners coming in to hold torchlit marches and fight in the streets.

“That said: If the Klan or ‘white nationalists’ lead the defense of any statue anywhere in this nation, it’s going to come down. ‘Good guys’ don’t want to stand with Nazis, and precious few Americans will even hear the ‘What’s next, George Washington?’ argument if it’s preceded by claims to the contrary.

“Note, though, that the whole anti-statue drive (like the push to rename buildings and so on) reeks of political calculation.  It’s all about symbols, not substance: None of these changes will feed the hungry, help a child get a good education or even shift race relations.

‘No: They’re simply issues on which you can claim the moral high ground, mobilize a movement, score a clear victory – and repeat, with the leaders gaining power and profit along the way.  (In good measure, this is a bid to co-opt the Black Lives Matter movement, whose goals were largely too vague or far-reaching to allow for the regular ‘wins’ that organizers have to have.)

“As noted above,  the white-nationalist leaders are playing a version of the same game –though their movement is still at the ‘nursing grievances’ stage, and will likely never reach the ‘collecting wins’ one.

“Except, of course, that they claim President Trump’s win last November as one of their victories. It wasn’t, though Trump often seems confused about that.

“White nationalists and the ‘alt-right’ are a miniscule part of the electorate – though their profiles have been elevated by the Web and social media and by media forces eager to make them the face of the Trump vote.”

Daniel Henninger / Wall Street Journal

“Charlottesville was a warning. The warning is that America’s politics is steadily disconnecting from reality. Our politics is starting to seem psychotic.

“Generally people get into politics to accomplish something concrete or achievable – the passage of a piece of legislation or of identifiable public policies whose purpose is to make things better.  In a word, progress.

“The right and the left have disagreed for centuries on what works, but they at least shared a belief that the point of their political activity was to accomplish something real.

“Charlottesville was a political riot.  Is Charlottesville the future?

“Some may say the Charlottesville riot was the lunatic fringe of the right and left, with no particular relevance to what falls in between. But I think Charlottesville may be a prototype of a politics that is drifting away from traditional norms of behavior and purpose.

“Street protest has become the politics du jour.  Groups form constantly in the streets to chant slogans. America’s campuses live amid perpetual protest....

“In January the weekend that Donald Trump was inaugurated, I watched a group of protesters sit down and block traffic at a main intersection in Santa Barbara, Calif.  It seemed like a play date.  The cops watched like bemused adults.

“Charlottesville wasn’t a play date. It was a pitched battle between two organized mobs – the white nationalist groups on the right and the badly underreported Antifa, or ‘antifascist,’ groups on the hard-as-stone left.  Stories about Antifa’s organized violence are trickling out now, but there is no conceivable journalistic defense for having waited so long to inform the public about this dangerous movement.

“The phenomenon that enables politics without purpose is the internet. It is the group-organizing tool for psychologically disassociated young people on the left and on the right, like James Alex Fields Jr., who allegedly drove his car into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer. She won’t be the last casualty.

“Fields makes me think of the lone-wolf jihadists here and in Europe who explode out of the general population in a homicidal rage. These are people who sit endlessly in front of a computer screen, brainwashing themselves with online propaganda until they snap to make a ‘political statement.’ The internet – websites, social media, message boards – is elevating political paranoia and delegitimizing normal politics.

“Earlier this week, Britain’s head of counterterrorism policing, Mark Rowley, described the new reality: ‘What we’re wrestling with today is something which is more of a cultish movement where they are putting out propaganda and saying ‘anybody and everybody, act in our name and you’re part of our terrorist campaign.’’

“But, the argument goes, these behavioral extremes have no relevance to or effect on the rest of public life.  I’m not so sure. There have been a series of events lately that suggest the most basic requirements of intellectual or political seriousness are losing ground inside institutions that once provided ballast against the extremes.

“The Google firing of James Damore was one of these big events. Its meaning was that the goal of diversity, whatever its original intent, has become mostly a totem.  Mr. Damore was the little boy in the folk tale ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes,’ who shouts, ‘But he doesn’t have anything on!’  Google’s emperors banished James Damore for unmasking their diversity conceit....

“Amid this torrent, an odd paradox emerges: People are consuming more content and detail about politics than ever, and more people than ever are saying, ‘I have no idea what is going on.’  Someone is at fault here, and it is not the confused absorbers of information.

“Charlottesville is being pounded into the national psyche this week as a paroxysm of white nationalism. On current course, the flight from politics is going to look like rational behavior.”

Editorial / Washington Post

“Tuesday was a great day for David Duke and racists everywhere. The president of the United States all but declared that he has their backs.

“When a white supremacist stands accused of running his car into a crowd of protesters, killing one and injuring 19, Americans of goodwill mourn and demand justice. When this is done in the context of a rally where swastikas are borne and racist and anti-Semitic epithets hurled, the only morally justifiable reaction is disgust. When the nation’s leader does not understand this, the nation can only weep.

“On Saturday, after the murder of an innocent protester in Charlottesville followed marches that included armed men and Nazi salutes, President Trump’s instinct was to blame both sides. Widespread criticism followed, including the resignation of business leaders from a White House advisory council and condemnation from political leaders of both parties.  On Monday, Mr. Trump read a prepared statement condemning white supremacists and racism, delivering it in a manner suggesting he neither wrote nor endorsed the words.  On Tuesday, he removed any doubt: His initial reaction, putting Nazis and those protesting them on equal moral footing, is how he really feels.

“ ‘I think there’s blame on both sides.  You look at – you look at both sides,’ Mr. Trump said to reporters in Trump Tower, adding that there were ‘very fine people, on both sides.’  We’ve all seen the videotape: One side was composed of Nazis, Klansmen and other avowed racists chanting ‘Jews will not replace us.’ The other side was objecting to their racism.

“Yes, there are good and moral Americans who oppose the removal of statues of Confederate generals. Yes, there are reasonable Americans who fear that slaveholding Founding Fathers will be the next target. Notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s comments Tuesday, we don’t find it difficult to distinguish between a monument to George Washington, say, and statues to Confederate generals that were erected in the 20th century with the goal of maintaining white supremacy.

“There may be a time to debate such questions – but not, as any national leader with a sense of decency would understand, now.  Not in a time of mourning, with the wounds so fresh.  Not when Mr. Trump has not even bothered to call the family of Heather Heyer... Not when Americans are looking for a clear and unequivocal condemnation of the hatred that brought those 700 marchers to Charlottesville.

“That car in Charlottesville did not kill or wound just the 20 bodies it struck. It damaged the nation.  Mr. Trump not only failed to help the country heal; he made the wound wider and deeper.”

John Podhoretz / New York Post

“On Tuesday afternoon we learned yet again that the president of the United States is against neo-Nazis, which is nice. They’re ‘very rough,’ he said at an impromptu Trump Tower press conference – by which he likely meant some of the people he saw on TV in Charlottesville this past Saturday had beards and leather jackets and swastika tattoos and were overweight.

“The night before, by contrast, Trump said there had been some ‘very good people’ rallying with ‘a permit’ by a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville. Maybe he thought so because the photographs we all saw showed clean-cut young men in Polo shirts and Dockers.

“The rest of us also saw them engaging in Nazi salutes and carrying torches.

“Those images seem to have eluded the president.

“The president suggested many had been there on Friday night because they cared deeply about the fact that a Robert E. Lee statue in a Charlottesville park is due to be moved.

“Trump did not note that they were not locals with aesthetic concerns but rather had been summoned from all over the country under the slogan of ‘Unite the Right.’

“The ad promoting the ‘Unite the Right’ rally, which ran on far-right websites all week, did not even mention the statue. It was designed to evoke a Fascist poster with birds similar to the Nazi eagle in the sky over the marchers and Confederate flags taking the place of swastikas.

“It invited people to join speakers like...Augustus Invictus, an alt-right figure who once said, ‘I have prophesied for years that I was born for a Great War, that if I did not witness the coming of the Second American Civil War I would begin it myself.’...And Michael Hill, an ex-professor who said, in 2015, ‘Never underestimate the perfidy of the organized Jew.’ And Matt Heimbach, who says only 27,000 Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

“The march’s own organizer, Jason Kessler, described the view of those who wanted to move the statue thus: ‘You don’t give a damn about white people. You people are implementing policies which are displacing us in our home countries, and we will not be allowed to survive.’

“I don’t think statuary was his primary concern.

“The president did something absolutely horrifying in that press conference.  He bristled at the use of the term ‘alt-Right’ by a reporter and demanded to know from her what she meant by it. He drew a distinction between the neo-Nazis – ‘very rough’ – and the members of the alt-Right who rallied with torches on Friday night, chanting ‘Jews shall not replace us.’

“It was this group, these alt-Rightniks, that Trump said featured ‘some very good people.’ By saying this, he was not only committing an infamy.  He actually seemed to be doing constituent service for a group that supported him.

“As David French writes, ‘When Trump carves [the alt-Right] away from the Nazis and distinguishes them from the neo-Confederates, he’s doing exactly what they want. He’s making them respectable. He’s making them different.’

“That such words could actually emerge from the mouth of the president of the United States is one of the most disheartening facts of my lifetime.”

Earlier, in a separate op-ed, Podhoretz wrote after Trump’s statement on Saturday:

“I couldn’t live with myself if I supported a president who can’t bring himself to denounce Nazis and white supremacists unqualifiedly and by name.

“I’ve also been basically ordered to support the president by conservative intellectuals for the good of America, just as Daenerys Targaryen keeps telling Jon Snow on ‘Game of Thrones’ to bend the knee to save Westeros.

“ ‘This is a civil war,’ the former media mogul Conrad Black wrote this week about the liberals who are seeking to destroy Trump, and Black insists that ‘the choice, for sane conservatives, is Trump or national disaster.’

“Really? And what if the choice is between national disaster and...national disaster?

“Like everybody else, our president watched video of a white supremacist deliberately drive a car into a crowd of liberal protesters, and then back up the car and drive back over them again. And our president responded by condemning violence ‘on many sides’ and offering his ‘best regards’ to the casualties.

“This was not a mistake on Trump’s part. This was a deliberate communications choice. It has a discomfiting parallel with the now-forgotten moment one week after Trump’s swearing in when his administration issued a statement on Holocaust remembrance that did not mention Jews....

“The president’s refusal to name the evil in our midst is the behavior of a man whose moral sense is stunted – if he has a moral sense at all. This is what I feared would be the case when he became president.

“Perhaps those who say I have an obligation as a conservative to support Trump should wonder what their moral obligations require.”

Peggy Noonan / Wall Street Journal

“The political aspect of the president’s failures this week is to reveal him as increasingly isolated. He is not without supporters, but it’s down to roughly a third of the country and one senses soft around the edges. That is not a base, it’s a core.  A core can have an impact, but a president cannot govern if that’s all he has.  You need something bigger behind you to scare your foes and stiffen your friends. The nation’s CEOs, feeling personal dismay and external pressure, ran for the exits. The president has further embarrassed and frustrated his party on Capitol Hill. That puts in further doubt needed legislation on such popular issues as tax reform and infrastructure, which might fare better if he were not associated with them.

“Other fallout the past week is as consequential. Donald Trump is binding himself down with thick chords of rhetorical inadequacy.  People felt let down, angry and in some cases frightened by his inability to make clear moral distinctions when he addressed the events in Charlottesville, Va.  There were neo-Nazis, anti-Semitic chants, white supremacists; a woman was killed and many people injured.  It’s not hard to figure out who and what needed to be castigated – clearly, unambiguously, immediately.

“Here is a cliché but only because it is true: In times of stress and fracture, people want a president who’s calm in the storm, who speaks to the nation’s moral conscience, recalls first principles, evokes what unites us, honestly defines the contours of an event, and softly instructs.  Mr. Trump did not do any of that.  If a leader is particularly gifted he could, in a moment of historical stress, succeed in speaking to the nation’s soul and moving its heart by addressing its brain. This kind of thing comes from love – of the country, our people, what we’ve been.  It struck me this week as he spoke that his speeches and statements are peculiarly loveless. The public Mr. Trump is not without sentiment and occasional sentimentality, but the deeper wells of a broader love seem not there to draw from. Seven months in, people know they can look to him for a reaction, a statement, an announcement, but not for comfort, inspiration, higher meaning.”

Michael Goodwin / New York Post

“Two weeks ago, the Post reported that the Army rejected a request to rename streets at Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton that honor Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, who were stationed there in the 1840s.

“Rep. Yvette Clarke vowed to keep fighting for the change, saying ‘These monuments are deeply offensive to the hundreds of thousands of Brooklyn residents and members of the armed forces stationed at Fort Hamilton whose ancestors Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson fought to hold in slavery.’

“She’s right, but the Army also made an important point. It said the generals are part of military history and street-name honors were made ‘in the spirt of reconciliation’ after the war.

“That spirit of reconciliation, reflected in the lenient terms of military surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, was captured by President Lincoln at his second inaugural.  Speaking on March 4th, 1865, as the war was winding down and 40 days before his assassination, Lincoln recounted in somber eloquence the horror that had befallen both North and South with the clear suggestion it was divine punishment for the sin of slavery. He concluded with these remarkable words:

“ ‘With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.’

“Should Lincoln and his ideals also be torn down and trashed? Have our divisions become so deep that the only way to settle them is with another Civil War?”

Thomas L. Friedman / New York Times

“I’ve been on the road since the Charlottesville killing. I am traveling around the Arab world and Afghanistan with the chief of the U.S. Air Force, Gen. David Goldfein; his civilian boss, the Air Force secretary, Heather Wilson; and their aides. We’re currently at the giant Al Udeid Air Base (Qatar), from which America’s entire ISIS-Syria-Iraq-Afghanistan air war is run.

“With all the news from Charlottesville, I was feeling in the wrong place at the wrong time. And then I looked around me here, and the connection with Charlottesville became obvious....

“I look around and see our Air Force chief, who is of Eastern European Jewish descent, reporting to a woman Air Force secretary, who was among the early women graduates of the Air Force Academy and whose senior aide is an African-American woman lieutenant colonel. The base commander here in Qatar, overseeing the whole air war, is of Armenian descent, and his top deputy is of Lebanese descent.

“In the control center I’m introduced to the two Russian-speaking U.S. servicemen who 10 to 12 times a day get on the local ‘hotline’ with the Russian command post in Syria to make sure Russian planes don’t collide with ours.  One of the servicemen was born in Russia and the other left Kiev, Ukraine, just five years ago, in part, he told me, because he dreamed of joining the U.S. Air Force: ‘This is the country of opportunity.’

“Then we get a briefing from the combat innovation team, which is designing a new algorithm for dynamic targeting with colleagues in Silicon Valley. I ask their commander about his last name – Ito – and he explains, ‘My dad is from Cuba and my mother is from Mexico.’ The intelligence briefing was delivered by ‘Captain Yang.’

“The very reason America is the supreme power in this region is that the U.S. military can take all of those different people and make them into a fist. And the very reason we are stuck in this region and can’t get out is that so many of the nation-states and people here are fighting only for their exclusivist dreams of supremacy – Shiite supremacy, Sunni supremacy, Alawite supremacy, Taliban supremacy, Turkish supremacy and Persian supremacy....

“None of the U.S. military people here talk U.S. politics.  But I do. As a citizen, I say they deserve a commander in chief who does not need three tries to grudgingly denounce violent white supremacists. Pluralism is our true source of strength at home and abroad. It has to be nurtured, celebrated and protected from its enemies everywhere and always....

“The good news?  ISIS, having been largely defeated in Iraq, will most likely be defeated in Syria, too, by Americans, Kurds, Russians, Syrians, Iranians and pro-Iranian militias. The bad news?  There is a good chance that ISIS’ territory will ultimately fall under Iran’s sway.”

Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, delivered a powerful speech at her memorial service on Wednesday, calling on people to “find a way to make a difference,” adding, this was “just the beginning of Heather’s legacy, not the end.”

“They killed my child to shut her up. Well guess what, you just magnified her,” she said.

“I’d rather have my child, but by golly, if I’m going to give her up, we’re going to make it count.”

Susan Bro told ABC News Friday that she had not heard from President Trump and did not want to talk to him at this point.

Wall Street

The Federal Reserve released the minutes from its July 25-26 meeting and policymakers appeared increasingly wary about recent weak inflation, with some calling for a halt to further interest rate hikes, which no one now expects in September, but December is still on the table.

At the same time, the Fed seems ready to begin reducing its $4.2 trillion balance sheet...portfolio of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

And...“Many participants...saw some likelihood that inflation might remain below 2 percent for longer than they currently expected, and several indicated that the risks to the inflation outlook could be tilted to the downside.”

But New York Fed president William Dudley said on Monday that he favors another rate rise this year if the economy evolves as he expects.

Dudley said he expect the labor market to continue to tighten, with higher wage gains that will move inflation to the 2% objective.

Meanwhile, in terms of economic data for the week, July retail sales rose a stronger-than-expected 0.6%, with June revised to 0.3% from -0.2%.  The 0.6% figures is the best in seven months.

But the retail sector itself continues to take it on the chin, with most continuing to report declining sales, though there are some figures down below that are better than the bulk of their competition.

Retailers are struggling to raise prices with low inflation and wages.

July housing starts came in less than expected, while July industrial production was in line, 0.2%.

Europe and Asia

First some economic news in the eurozone.  A flash estimate on GDP for the second quarter, as put out by Eurostat, shows an increase of 0.6% for the EA19, up from the first quarter pace of 0.5%.

Compared with the same quarter a year ago, GDP rose 2.2%, up from 1.9%.

Germany’s GDP rose 2.1% vs. a year ago, France 1.8%, Spain 3.1%, and Italy 1.5%.

Inflation for July was just 1.3% annualized in the eurozone, according to Eurostat, stable compared with June and still well off the European Central Bank’s target of 2%.  [Germany 1.5%, France 0.8%, Italy 1.2%, Spain 1.7%.]

Meanwhile, ECB President Mario Draghi has a dilemma. The euro has risen strongly the past few months, to basically a 1 ½-year high against the dollar, which means holiday makers traveling abroad can buy more overseas, but they also pay less for imports which is a result of lower prices, thus lower inflation in the eurozone, while the strong euro is definitely beginning to dampen exports.

So while many are clamoring for the ECB to ease back significantly on its quantitative easing program, without inflation it’s difficult to build a case for doing so (similar to the Fed’s issue of raising rates with inflation here also well below the 2% target).

Another issue, as I’ve been writing for years, is the fact the ECB is finding it increasingly difficult to find eligible assets for purchase in its QE program, unless it relaxes the rules on what it can buy. As Archie Bunker would have said, they’re getting close to the point where the only stuff to buy will be a lot of crapola, not that Archie was a central bank watcher.

The ECB will be issuing new forecasts in September and with the euro’s rise, they’ll reflect a fall in projected 2018 inflation, for starters.

Eurobits....

--A coordinated terror attack, possibly the work of ISIS, who claimed responsibility, killed 13 people in Barcelona and 1 person in the nearby Seaside resort of Cambrils.  Five terrorists wearing fake suicide belts rammed civilians with a car in the latter, hours after a rampaging van left 13 dead and over 100 wounded, many seriously, on the popular Las Ramblas boulevard of Barcelona.

An explosion in a house the day before was also linked to the terror cell, a probable bomb factory, that we don’t know as yet may or may not have led to the adoption of a Plan B by the terrorists.

Police later confirmed that one of the five killed in Cambrils was the driver of the van in Barcelona. At least four were arrested.

It seems the cell contained at least eight people and Spanish authorities believe they were looking to carry out an attack using butane gas canisters.  It seems others are on the run, as many as three more.

[A knife attack in the Finnish city of Turku today killed two and wounded 8, with a suspect shot in the leg.  One other may be on the loose, but as I go to post it hasn’t been confirmed this was a terrorist attack.  I’m guessing it was, given where the wounded suspect is from, a heavily migrant suburb of Turku.]

--On the Brexit front, the U.K. is preparing to give further details of its approach next week as it lays out positions on at least three key initial areas.

Critics in the U.K. and EU have complained the government wasn’t moving fast enough. It’s already been five months since the two-year process of Britain’s withdrawal was formally triggered, after all.

But Prime Minister Theresa May insists the talks with the EU thus far have been “positive and constructive.”

On Monday, the government will release two documents; one on how it will treat confidential EU information obtained before Brexit, and the other on how goods placed on supply chains in the EU single market before the U.K.’s departure can still be made available afterward.  While this doesn’t necessarily seem controversial, another position paper that could be published next week relating to civil and commercial contracts in force before the exit could be.

The U.K. is likely to oppose the EU’s proposal that the European Court of Justice would have the power to rule on breaches of final agreement and hand down financial penalties to the U.K. for non-compliance.  There is no way the U.K. will accept this, at least from earlier discussions on this key topic. Getting out of the Court of Justice’s clutches was a major reason for Brexit in the first place.

Earlier this week, Britain published its vision on post-Brexit customs arrangements, including a detailed position on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

It also is considering allowing European Union citizens to travel freely to the country even after Brexit; that is, free to visit, but working, studying or settling there would require them to secure permission. This is really about the Irish border.  Under one proposal advanced by the U.K., a customs border wouldn’t be needed between the two because each side would enforce the other’s customs rules, which would satisfy Ireland’s demand to maintain the current open border.  [Otherwise you’re talking border check points, which some say would lead to a return to the violence in Northern Ireland. Cross-border trade is worth $3.5 billion and disrupting it could have a devastating impact on both economies.]

The Office for National Statistics reported on Wednesday that there were a record 2.37 million EU workers in Britain between April and June this year, up 126,000 from the same period in 2016.

The government of Prime Minister May wants to maintain something akin to membership in the bloc’s customs union for an interim period post-March 2019, the current deadline, so that it has time to line up trade deals with other countries.

But the EU said this week that Britain’s coming documents are all well and good, except it is focused on making progress on the issues of “separation,” including Britain’s financial obligations to the EU, as well as the protection of the rights of EU citizens living in the U.K., before it would enter into any discussion of trade or a transition period.

The deadline for the current round of discussions in which Britain must show some progress with the EU is October, with an EU summit in Brussels on Oct. 19, then another Dec. 14.

On the economic front, the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics reported that average weekly earnings, including bonuses, rose 2.1% in the second quarter, year-over-year, while inflation was steady in July at 2.6%.  Unemployment for Q2 was 4.4%, the lowest since 1975.

Retail sales slowed in the U.K. last month after a strong second quarter, 0.3% month-on-month, up just 1.8% compared with a year earlier, the slowest since November 2013.

And the number of overseas visits to the U.K. hit a record in June, as the weaker pound lured tourists. The 3.5m visits by overseas residents – the highest number for the month on record – was a 7% increase on June 2016.  Spending increased 2%.

--Unemployment in France fell to 9.5% in the second quarter, the lowest level in five years and welcome news for new president Emmanuel Macron.

--Germany’s big election is Sept. 24 and Friday, Turkish President Erdogan called on Turks in Germany to vote against major parties, saying Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s establishment were enemies of Turkey.  “Support those political parties who are not enemies of Turkey.”

Merkel in response said at a campaign event, “We will not tolerate any kind of interference.” Germany has voiced concern Erdogan is using the failed coup in his country as a pretext to quash dissent.

Hey, Barack Obama tried to influence the Brexit vote in Britain.  Just sayin’.

Turning to Asia....

In China, we had a slew of data for July, with retails sales up 10.4% year-over-year, down from June’s 11% pace, fixed-asset investment rose 8,.3% in the first seven months of the year, and industrial production increased 6.4% yoy (vs. 7.6% June), all less than expected.  [Data courtesy of the National Bureau of Statistics]

Passenger-car sales rose 4.3% last month year-over-year, up 2% the first seven months over  a year earlier, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

[Ford’s sales in China declined 7% in the first half of the year, while GM’s declined 2.5% over the same period.  GM’s did rise 6.3% yoy in July, but Ford’s dropped 7%.  Nissan’s rose 14% last month, Honda’s 12%, and Toyota’s 11%.]

On the housing front, average new home prices in China’s 70 major cities rose 0.4% in July from the previous month, slowing from June’s 0.7% growth as policymakers worked to cool an overheated market.  [National Bureau of Statistics]

Compared with a year ago, new home prices rose 9.7% last July, slowing from June’s 10.2% pace.

Prices in Beijing fell 0.1% in July, Shanghai stalled, and Shenzhen’s fell 0.2%.

Regulators have been taking steps to crack down on property speculation since late March

In Japan, the story was the GDP report for the second quarter and it came in far better than expected, a 4% annualized pace and the best pace since the first quarter of 2015, much to the satisfaction of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.  In the first quarter GDP rose 1.5% on an annualized basis, and we’re now at six straight quarters of growth, the best since 2005-06.

Private consumption, 2/3s of GDP, rose 0.9% over the previous quarter, the fastest pace in three years, while employee wages were up 0.7% Q2 over Q1, the best in a year.

Cap-ex rose 2.4% over Q1 (9.9% annualized), fastest since Q1 2014.  But exports fell 1.9% last quarter.

So is the Bank of Japan about to dismantle its massive stimulus program because of the growth figure?  No way...plus inflation remains very low, just 0.4% in June, while overall wages were down in June, 0.4%, year-over-year.

--Taiwan’s economy grew 2.1% in the second quarter, down from 2.7% in the previous one, but solid.  Exports grew 5% year on year as the global economy continued to recover, benefiting Taiwan’s electronics manufacturers in particular.

Street Bytes

--Stocks fell a second straight week, with the Dow Jones down 0.8% to 21674, while the S&P 500 lost 0.7% and Nasdaq 0.6%.  It’s the worst two-week stretch of the year.  Thursday’s market decline, including a 274-point drop in the Dow, was the worst in three months.

Hedge fund billionaire David Tepper said in an interview with CNBC, ‘I’m not saying stocks are screaming cheap, but you’re nowhere near an overheated market,” noting that comparisons to the 1999 rally were “ridiculous.”

“Because world growth will continue to be good, earnings will be better and stocks are relatively cheap to interest rates.”

I can’t disagree with this. I said the Dow and S&P 500 would rise 10%, Nasdaq 7% for 2017, and haven’t deviated one iota from this stance.  Global growth is indeed solid, as you see from the above data on Europe and Japan.

[The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow early indicator for third-quarter U.S. GDP is currently at 3.8%, but the history of this barometer is that it slides as the quarter progresses. We’ll have a pretty good handle in early September where we might end up.]

--U.S. Treasury Yields

6-mo. 1.11%  2-yr. 1.31%  10-yr. 2.19%  30-yr. 2.78%

Treasuries unchanged on the week.

--Charlottesville...the CEO reaction....

It started on Monday when Merck & Co.’s CEO Kenneth Frazier stepped down from a White House business group set up to advise President Trump.  Then Under Armour Inc.’s Kevin Plank and Intel Corp.’s Brian Krzanich were the first to follow.

Frazier, an African-American: “Our country’s strength stems from its diversity and the contributions made by men and women of different faiths, races, sexual orientations and political beliefs.

“America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal. As CEO of Merck, and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

Trump then tweeted immediately: “@Merck Pharma is a leader in higher & higher drug prices while at the same time taking jobs out of the U.S. Bring jobs back & LOWER PRICES!”

Plank said he was quitting because his athletic-wear company “engages in innovation and sports, not politics,” while Krzanich cited a “divided political climate” and declared, “The current environment must change, or else our nation will become a shadow of what it once was and what it still can and should be.”

Wednesday, when word hit the White House that two advisory groups of American business leaders had decided to disband following a conference call among CEOs (who had witnessed Trump’s performance the day before), and after the heads of 3M, Campbell Soup, Johnson & Johnson and United Technologies announced their resignations, Trump quickly front-ran the press release, saying it was he that disbanded the councils.

Trump tweeted: “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!”

Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon told employees in a letter: “As we watched the events and the response from President Trump over the weekend, we too felt that he missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook said he did not agree there was a “moral equivalence” between white supremacists and “those who oppose them.”  In an email to staff, Cook said: “I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights.

“Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.”

Apple announced it was donating $1 million each to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

Howard Schultz, former CEO and now executive chairman of Starbucks, in decrying the hatred displayed in Charlottesville, told employees, “I know we are better than this.”

“What we witnessed this past weekend is against every sense of what is right.  My fear is not only that this behavior is being given permission and license, but its conduct is being normalized to the point where people are no longer hiding their face.”

“The moral fiber, the values, and what we as a country have stood for is literally hanging in the abyss,” Schultz added.  “We are at a critical juncture in American history. That is not an exaggeration. We are at and facing a crucible in which our daily life is being challenged and being questioned about what is right and what is wrong.”

Editorial / Wall Street Journal

“Mr. Trump’s ego won’t allow him to concede error and he broods over criticism until he ends up hurting himself, as he showed again Tuesday by relitigating his response to the Charlottesville violence. This is how he has achieved a 34% approval rating, as even allies flee and his Presidency shrinks in on itself.”

--The renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement is not off to a good start. The Trump administration lectured Canada and Mexico on the failures of the current agreement at an opening news conference on Wednesday, but both of them said the current agreement is not tilted against the United States.

It is hoped that after a number of upcoming rounds of talks between the three parties, a new agreement will be reached by year end, which would be a very fast timetable, reflecting the fact both Mexico and the U.S. have national elections next year.

The United States is focused on trade deficits, but I agree with Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, who said, “Canada doesn’t view trade surpluses or deficits as a primary measure of whether trade works.”

--The Trump administration, faced with increasing pressure from Republicans in Congress, agreed Wednesday to continue paying insurance companies payments that are critical to keeping markets stable under ObamaCare.

For months, the administration flirted with cutting off the “cost-sharing reduction payments” as a way to cause the healthcare law to “implode,” as the president liked to say.

But there is no doubt this would have caused chaos in the insurance market. Trump has argued voters would blame Democrats for this, but that’s not what would be the case.  Republicans would get killed.

--Home Depot Inc. lifted its fiscal 2017 earnings and sales forecast after reporting higher-than-expected second-quarter results. The company now expects earnings-per-share growth of approximately 13%, and full-year sales growth of 5.3%, with same-store sales up 5.5%, which is terrific.

For the second quarter, net sales increased 6.2% to $28.11 billion, with comp store sales up 6.3% (6.6% in the U.S.).

--Wal-Mart reported second-quarter earnings and sales that topped the Street, aided by a boost in online transactions, up 60%. Last quarter, e-commerce sales climbed 63%.

At the same time, Wal-Mart’s comp store sales growth at its U.S. locations rose a 12th-consecutive quarter, up 1.7% ex-fuel, with traffic growth of 1.3%.

Revenue was $123.36 billion, up 2.1% and ahead of expectations.

But the shares slipped on the news because the stock has been on a solid run and some investors were expecting even more.

--Target Corp.’s efforts to cut prices and improve its digital operations showed signs of success in its latest quarterly report, as same-store sales rose 1.3%, driven by stronger-than-expected foot traffic. Digital sales increased 32% in the quarter, up from 16% growth in the same period last year.  [Overall revenue rose 1.6% to $16.43 billion, with second-quarter profit of $672 million, vs. $680m a year earlier.]

Target plans to double its number of small-format stores this year, and remodel more than 100 existing locations and expand a next-day delivery service for online orders.

The company is also renewing focus on its grocery business, which has seen declining sales, and Monday, Target said it had hired executives from Wal-Mart and General Mills to accelerate its strategy in this segment.  [Amazon’s deal to buy Whole Foods Market is forcing everyone in the grocery business to do the same.]

--President Trump tweeted on Wednesday: “Amazon is doing great damage to tax paying retailers. Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt – many jobs being lost!”

The president has repeatedly targeted Amazon.com, with CEO Jeff Bezos also owning the Washington Post, which has often been critical in its coverage of the White House.

--Shares in Dick’s Sporting Goods fell sharply after the company lowered its earnings and comp sales outlook.  The company said sales could decline in the low single digits or stay flat, when it had been calling for growth of 1% to 3%.

Same-store sales this past quarter rose just 0.1%, missing the retailer’s own estimates of growth between 2% to 3%.

--Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. reported a surge in revenues and profit, sending its shares to new highs on Thursday. The company said its fiscal first-quarter earnings nearly doubled from the year-earlier period to $2.2 billion, as sales rose 56%, to $7.4 billion, beating estimates.

Alibaba is soaring due to a wave of spending by China’s growing middle class, which now numbers about 130 million people, nearly all shopping online, with Alibaba capturing a large share of online retail activity.

[I still don’t trust the accounting for this company for a second.  But that’s me.]

--Shares of Cisco Systems Inc. fell after the networking company reported fiscal fourth-quarter revenue and adjusted earnings in line with expectations but predicted another drop in revenue in the next quarter. Cisco said it earned $2.4 billion, compared with $2.8 billion in the year-ago period.  Revenue fell 4% to $12.1 billion.

What hurt more was the company’s guidance that it expects fiscal first-quarter revenue to fall between 3% and 1% year-over-year.

The company is counting on a new product, Catalyst, to drive growth again, after revenue has fallen seven straight quarters.  But smaller competitors such as Juniper Networks and Arista Networks in the switching business that made Cisco what it is are growing at double-digits, which means Cisco is losing market share.

--Costco must pay Tiffany & Co. $19.4 million for selling knock-off rings without indicating the rings were not manufactured by Tiffany itself.

A judge ruled after a four-year trademark infringement suit, ordering the warehouse retailer to pay Tiffany damages.

Costco had been selling the rings for years with signs saying “Tiffany.” What a bunch of dirtballs. Costco said it was using the Tiffany name to designate a certain style. Right.

--The price of Bitcoin soared past $4,000 and last I looked today was $4,300, a gain of about 25% since Friday.  You are on your own on this one.

Foreign Affairs

Syria / Iraq / Iran: Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the Syrian government has increased the size of the territory under its control by 2 ½ times in just two months.

Shoigu made the comments in an interview with state-owned TV channel Rossiya 24 on Sunday, adding that the fall of the ISIS stronghold of Deir el-Zour “will say a lot, if not everything, about the end of the battle with” the Islamic State group.

The coming collapse of ISIS is of course welcome, but the Assad regime retaking control is not, because this really means Iran is taking over.

Iraq hasn’t been much in the news, which you’d think is a good thing, but, as in Syria, Iran’s influence is growing there, too, while ISIS loses most of its remaining territory. Though the terrorists still have a bit of a base in mountain areas near the northern city of Baiji, where a suicide attacker killed seven Iraqi soldiers on Wednesday.

In Tehran, the Iranian parliament voted Sunday to increase funding for the country’s military forces and ballistic missile program, in the latest response to new sanctions leveled by the Trump administration.  The ballistic-missile program is to receive another $300+ million, while another $61 million goes toward nuclear development, a spokesman for parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee told state television.

The new sanctions target the ballistic missile program and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, whose Quds Force wing oversees Iran’s involvement in Iraq and Syria.

Iran sees the U.S. sanctions as violations of the landmark nuclear deal.  Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned of the possibility that Iran could drop out of the pact.

“If the Americans impose sanctions on Iran in violation of the [nuclear deal], the Iranian government...is obliged to take reciprocal action in nuclear and other affairs,” parliament speaker Ali Larijani said, according to IRNA.

The nuke deal, you’ll recall, omitted any mention of the ballistic missile program.

Separately, an Israeli television report on Tuesday said Iran is building a facility in northwest Syria to manufacture long-range rockets, showing satellite images it said were of the site under construction.

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran was strengthening its foothold in Syria.

“Our policy is clear: We vehemently oppose the military buildup by Iran and its proxies, primarily Hizbullah, in Syria and we will do whatever it takes to protect Israel’s security.”

Last Sunday, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel against future military operations in Lebanon.  He said that “any Israeli unit that enters Lebanon will be defeated,” adding, “Israel’s goal in the [Second Lebanon War] was to crush Hizbullah, but since [the war], our strength only increased and the Israelis know it. When Israelis speak about the capacities of Hizbullah growing they recognize their defeat in the war.”

Afghanistan: Another American soldier was killed Wednesday, 20 U.S. and Afghan troops wounded, in a push against ISIS fighters.  10 U.S. troops have been killed here this year, according to the U.S. military; nearly 2,400 since the war began after 9/11.

President Trump is still weighing requests by his generals for more troops to help Afghan forces break a stalemate against the Taliban, and at the same time, prevent rival ISIS fighters from expanding here as their territory shrinks in Syria.  This is supposed to be a major topic of discussion at Camp David this weekend.

Knowing this internal debate continues, the Taliban issued a rare open letter to President Trump on Tuesday, saying that the situation in Afghanistan was “far worse than you realize,” and sending in more troops would be self-destructive.

The letter also criticized the Afghan government as “stooges,” “lying, corrupt  leaders” and “repulsive sellouts” who were providing Washington with “rosy pictures” of the military position.

Russia: Opposition leader Alexei Navalny isn’t afraid to stir things up and this week, he stated in a blog post titled “A Brilliant Father’s Golden Child” that the son of Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov is living well beyond his means; as in enjoying a luxurious lifestyle despite holding down temporary employment.

This is all part of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation and he has gone after many in the elite, including Prime Minister Medvedev.

Navalny said that Peskov’s son, Nikolai Choles, was “an example of how, in Russia, where 20 million people live beneath the poverty line and 70 percent can only dream of a salary of 45,000 rubles ($760), it is possible to have a wonderful life.  At the highest level. Without doing anything.”

Navalny once went after Dmitry Peskov for owning a $620,000 watch.

Navalny hopes to run for president next year, despite a criminal conviction that legally bars him from doing so.  I’d say his chances of this are slim and none.  [Moscow Times]

Venezuela: Vice President Pence, who has been touring South America the past week (Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama) said on Monday the United States would bring all its economic and diplomatic power to bear to see democracy restored in Venezuela, saying a failed state there threatens Americans.

“President Trump has made it very clear that we will not stand by while Venezuela collapses into dictatorship,” Pence told reporters in Cartagena, Colombia.

But the U.S. energy industry is concerned the administration would adopt an oil embargo against Venezuela, though you’d think former Exxon Mobil exec, Rex Tillerson, would understand this is not in anyone’s best interests.  U.S. oil companies accepted more than 270 million barrels worth of Venezuelan crude last year alone – enough to produce about 5 billion gallons of gasoline.  U.S. refineries process a third of all Venezuelan oil.

At the very least, an embargo on oil from there would cause a temporary spike in gas prices, but I believe it would hurt the Venezuelan people even more than they already are by the Maduro disaster.

Separately, CIA director Mike Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday” that Venezuela could become a “risk” to the U.S. if chaos continues to roil the country.

“The Cubans are there, the Russians are there, the Iranians, Hizbullah are there. This is something that has a risk of getting to a very, very bad place, so America needs to take this very seriously.”

I told you in this space well over ten years ago that Hizbullah was a major concern in South America, and Venezuela specifically.  Lots of sleeper cells...sleeping...waiting to be activated.

Kenya: At least 25 people were killed in violence during and after the disputed presidential election here, many killed in protests by police in opposition strongholds after President Uhuru Kenyatt’s victory last Friday.

The opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, is mounting a legal challenge to the result.

The official tally was 54% Kenyatta, 45% Odinga, and international observers felt the vote was fair.

Burkina Faso (between Mali and Ghana): Twenty people were killed in a terror attack in the center of the capital, probably the work of an al-Qaeda offshoot active in the Sahel region.  A similar jihadist attack on a nearby café in January last year killed 30.

Australia: I have read very little on the topic, but Australia has a real crisis in government over the eligibility of some members of parliament, which given the small margin that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is operating under, could spell the end of his government.

At least six MPs are to have their eligibility decided by the nation’s High Court over the issue of dual citizenship, which is prohibited if you want to be a politician in Australia.

One senator, Fiona Nash, for example, revealed she is a U.K. citizen by descent because of her Scottish-born father.

Dozens of MPs have been forced to issue statements about their citizenship status.  Ms. Nash is deputy leader of the National Party, which is the junior partner in Turnbull’s governing coalition.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is a New Zealand dual citizen.  Four others will have their eligibility tested, with the High Court having to interpret a section of the constitution.

Random Musings

--Presidential tracking polls....

Gallup: 37% approval rating for President Trump.
Rasmussen: 42% approval.

In a new Marist poll, President Trump’s approval rating hit its lowest level since he assumed the presidency, with 35% approving of his performance, 55% disapproving.

While he maintains his base, his approval among “strong Republicans” decreased from 91% in June to 79% in August.

60% of Americans also do not feel Trump is honest and trustworthy, compared to 37% who believe Trump.  [This should be 90-10.]

According to a Quinnipiac University poll out Thursday, 50 percent of respondents said they want to see Democrats win control of the House, compared with 40 percent who want the GOP to keep control of the chamber.

But 92 percent of Republicans back their party and 93 percent of Democrats support theirs.

The 10-point gap is actually an improvement from the 14-point lead the Democrats had on a generic ballot earlier in the month.

President Trump’s approval rating also rose to 39 percent after dipping to 33 percent in Quinnipiac’s last survey.

It appears about half of those responding to this survey, however, did so before last weekend’s events in Charlottesville and the president’s response.

--President Trump is heading to Arizona next week for a rally, which sets the stage for major fireworks with two of his most vocal GOP critics being Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake.

The rally is scheduled for Tuesday at the Phoenix Convention Center and the police chief has already said it will be all hands on deck.

This is not going to go well.  Trump is also expected to support Arizona Treasurer Jeff DeWitt as a primary challenger to Flake in 2018.

--In an interview with The American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon claims he wants to “crush” the far-right, calling them “losers” and “a collection of clowns.”

“Ethno-nationalism – it’s losers.  It’s a fringe element,” Bannon said during a phone call with Kuttner.

“I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more,” he added.  “These guys are a collection of clowns.”

Bannon also said: “The longer [Democrats] talk about identity politics, I got ‘em.  I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

Kuttner said Bannon called him and never once asked for his remarks to be off the record.  But the website Axios reports that Bannon later told associates he did not intend for the conversation to be turned into an “interview” for the left-wing publication.

Bannon told his White House colleagues that he called Kuttner to discuss his stance on China and other topics.

But many of Bannon’s rivals inside and outside the White House have been urging President Trump to fire him.

Speaking on China and trade, Bannon said, “We’re going to run the tables on these guys.  We’ve come to the conclusion that they’re in an economic war and they’re crushing us.”

On North Korea, Bannon said there was “no military solution” in place to deal with a possible nuclear strike.

“Forget it,” Bannon told Kuttner.  “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

Bannon emphasized the focus should be China.

“To me,” he said, “the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we’re five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover.”

One of Bannon’s targets, economic adviser Gary Cohn, was upset by the president’s remarks at the Tuesday news conference that was supposed to showcase their infrastructure plans.

But Cohn won’t resign, it seems, while he remains the central player on agenda items like tax reform, and Trump considers him to be the new chair of the Federal Reserve.

White House chief of staff John Kelly was also clearly frustrated, but he’s not going anywhere.

As for Congressional Republicans, former speaker Newt Gingrich told the Wall Street Journal, “(They) know they have to get some things done to get re-elected next year, even if they are unhappy or rattled by Trump.”

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week” last Sunday, Anthony Scaramucci was asked by host George Stephanopoulos about whether anyone in the White House is willing to go to the president and say, “Boy, you just made a real mistake there.”

Scaramucci: “I think people are probably reluctant to tell him the truth. Maybe Ivanka would do that....Maybe Jared would do that.

“But you also got this sort of Bannon-bart influence in there, which I think is a snag on the president. If the president really wants to execute that legislative agenda that I think is so promising for the American people, the lower-middle class people and the middle class people, then he has to move away from that sort of Bannon-bart nonsense.”

Stephanopoulos: “You have been tough on Steve Bannon, does he have to go?”

Scaramucci: “Well, I think the president knows what he’s going to do with Steve Bannon.”

Editorial / Wall Street Journal

“The men and women who have joined the Trump Administration aren’t doing so because it enhances their reputations. They have no illusions about Mr. Trump’s character flaws, or if they did, they don’t any more.  They are trying to serve their country.

“They know nearly 63 million Americans voted for Donald Trump, and that it does the country no good to root for a Presidency’s disintegration. They see a rare moment of united Republican government to move in a better direction on domestic policy. Or they want to correct the erosion of American power and influence that accelerated during the Obama years.

“But that task gets harder with every reckless Trumpian flight from normal presidential behavior.  Every person has to decide how long he or she can serve in good conscience. But we hope the best stay as long as they can for the good of the country.”

[As I go to post, it is unclear if the Bannon interview in American Prospect was the final straw for Trump, or if Bannon already submitted his resignation.]

--Karl Rove / Wall Street Journal...on how President Trump handled Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his “seemingly inconsequential remark” at a Rotary Club in northern Kentucky, that the president had shown “excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.”

Rove:

“Rather than ignoring Mr. McConnell’s observation...the president scorched him with a barrage of fiery tweets. Shortly thereafter Mr. Trump piled on at a news conference, publicly blaming Mr. McConnell for coming up one vote short on the Senate’s bill to repeal ObamaCare.

“If that wasn’t enough, Mr. Trump then came close to calling for the majority leader to step down. When asked by reporters whether he would like Mr. McConnell to resign, Mr. Trump implied that if the senator couldn’t pull off health-care reform, tax reform and an infrastructure bill – ‘a very easier one’ – he would revisit the question.

“Blaming others may be cathartic for Mr. Trump, but it weakens the presidency and inhibits his agenda.  Republicans responded to the president’s criticism with a flurry of statements in the Senate leader’s support.  Legislators never like it when a chief executive – even of their own party – presumes to dictate who presides in their chambers.

“If Mr. Trump continues to attack congressional Republicans, the GOP could lose its majorities in the House and Senate in 2018.

“That outcome might be welcomed by fringe elements in the party whose primary interest is defeating the co-called establishment rather than advancing sound policy. But it would be a tremendous defeat for Mr. Trump if Democrats captured majorities in Congress. His agenda would be obstructed and his judicial nominees stymied.  His administration would be buried in congressional subpoenas and stuck in front of ugly oversight hearings for two years. Then voters would blame him in 2020 for not getting things done. After all, he’s the president and is responsible for what happens on his watch.

“Mr. Trump’s success is tied to the ability of congressional Republicans to win major legislative victories on health care, tax reform, infrastructure and other issues. In turn, achieving those triumphs depends largely on the competence of Mr. Trump’s White House....

“Where are the speeches explaining the plan to replace ObamaCare and why it would be better? Where are the Oval Office addresses on why tax reform would produce better jobs and bigger paychecks?  Where are the choruses echoing the president’s arguments for an infrastructure bill? They are nowhere to be found....

“Missing also are the administration’s legislative proposals, such as the actual infrastructure bill....

“Furthermore, the president ought to lower expectations by telling Americans how lengthy and difficult the legislating process will be. He should explain that he’s more concerned about doing things right than doing them quickly. Voters will be pleasantly surprised when he delivers.

“The president must stop stepping on his own agenda as he did Tuesday... Having backed off from his initial controversial comments, he once again equated the white supremacists and neo-Nazis with the counterprotesters who consisted mostly of University of Virginia students and local residents. The former was almost exclusively a hate group, the latter not.

“Mr. Trump must recognize that success depends on his ability to lead congressional Republicans in delivering concrete solutions to problems facing the middle class.  Like all presidents before him, Mr. Trump will be judged by results.  He must focus on doing better in the coming months than he did in his first seven.”

--Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) will advance to the Senate primary runoff to fill the Alabama Senate seat left open by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Moore came in the consensus favorite, while Strange appears to have benefited in the final days from the endorsement of President Trump as he pulled ahead of Rep. Mo Brooks.

Moore and Strange move onto a Sept. 26 runoff before the general election.

--I wrote the following in this space just this past 5/27/17, but it bears repeating:

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu drew national attention with a speech he gave last Friday as the last of four Confederate monuments was being removed from his city.

Landrieu slammed the legacy of the Confederacy and said that while history should be remembered, it needn’t be revered.

“The Confederacy lost and we’re better for it,” he said.  Landrieu said he had passed the monuments in his youth and gave them no heed, but that musician Wynton Marsales and others opened his eyes to a new way of thinking.

I’ll just say this, as a Yankee who had Civil War art all over my old home, including photos of Lincoln, Lee, Grant, and Jackson, and today, in my place one-third the size, I still have Civil War art prominently featured, including works by Mort Kunstler and John Paul Strain.  I’ve been to the spot where Stonewall Jackson was shot by his own men at Chancellorsville, and the plantation where he died 8 days later.  I know enough that Jackson’s Valley Campaign was pure military genius, and was studied by countless generals after, including a famous German tank commander.

I make no political statements in featuring those I have over the years on my walls.  [Another room is all huge works featuring 60s rock artists.]  It’s just history.

But...I do understand why some want to erase it in the South.  I just hope there is balance.  For example, I hope they haven’t taken out the marker where Gen. J.E.B. Stuart was shot, another place I’ve been to.   If we get to that, we’ve gone too far.

8/19/17

Here’s what I would add to the above.  I can understand taking down statues if the location of them really is of no historical significance.  Like if someone put up a statue of Robert E. Lee in Florida in the 1920s, when a lot of these were going up, take it down.  It’s meaningless, except to racists.

But I’ll go bonkers if you start taking down Confederate statues at battlefields that are also national parks.  As for Gettysburg, which I’ve been to multiple times, I will personally go down to protest if I ever saw something happening there.  [Though admittedly, there are some spots on the battlefield where the large number of monuments is kind of stupid.]

Here’s what I do know to be the truth with the white supremacists.  95% of them have the brain of a turnip, and many of their parents had the same.  They haven’t traveled the world, they have no idea of their own American history except some broad, fictitious generalities about Bobby Lee and Stonewall.

I’ve written before of Gen. Robert E. Lee.  Remember, I went to Washington & Lee University about five years ago to see where he’s buried.  W&L is next to VMI, which is home to Gen. George C. Marshall’s museum.  The same trip I went back to Appomattox, one of the great spots for American history in our country, and one of our great history lessons of all time in how Gen. Ulysses S. Grant treated the Confederate troops and Gen. Robert E Lee.  I have a print* of the surrender at McLean House in my living room.

*My print is old and what’s cool is Gen. Custer is in it, yes, that Custer.  He fought in the last meaningful battle of the war before the surrender as the forces were heading in the direction of Appomattox.  So my last trip to the McLean House, I notice in the room of the surrender the same print I had, and that was there the last time I was at the site, but no Custer was in it! So I asked the Park Ranger there, ‘Where’s Custer?’  “Oh, we discovered through further research that he wasn’t actually there.”  Talk about ‘waiting 24 hours.’

About a mile outside Appomattox, there is a little spot with the graves of the last Confederate soldiers to be killed in the war (plus one Union body, identified later).  It’s history.   Those kids had moms and dads, worried sick they would come home.  They didn’t.  Imagine, the very last ones of the Civil War.  They were so close to surviving. 

Don’t dare do anything to that spot, and other precious places in America like it.

But what’s truly sickening is our youth is so ignorant of history, thanks in no small part to abysmal community standards when it comes to local boards of education and what our children are being taught, and the textbooks used.  Our kids are largely idiots. Oh, but they’re tech savvy!

These are the ones protesting...on both sides.  I’m old.  I’ll be lucky to be around another 15 years.  This country’s going to hell.  Good luck, younger folk.

Other opinion on the topic....

Jonathan S. Tobin / New York Post

“Public images of America’s past are quickly becoming the focus of revisionist history that some liberals believe requires us to tear down memorials to those associated with slavery, or, as in the case of TR [Ed. referring to a controversial statue of Teddy Roosevelt outside the front of the Museum of Natural History in New York], prone to say some things that would be judged politically incorrect in the 21st century.

“That iconic equestrian image of TR drew fire because protesters see the monument, in which the 26th president is flanked by an African-American and Native American, as an expression of white supremacy.

“Many on the left also damn Roosevelt as an imperialist, although without his efforts to establish America as a global power it is unlikely that the United States could have saved the world from the Nazis a generation later.

“Are revisionist radicals capable of enforcing a new standard that could lead to past presidents being evicted from our public squares?  Maybe.

“A generation ago, nobody would have thought Washington or Jefferson controversial.  Now it appears that even Mount Rushmore isn’t safe since among its quartet of greatest only Lincoln might be exempt from the iconoclasts....

“But, contrary to Trump’s assertion, it doesn’t have to be a simple choice of keep them all or tear them all down.

“While many of America’s Founding Fathers owned slaves, there’s a clear difference between their hypocrisy and those who sought to destroy the republic they created in order to safeguard slavery.

“While we honor Washington and Jefferson for their defense of freedom, symbols like the Confederate battle flag and many of the monuments to that lost cause are more about the defense of Jim Crow than the memory of the Civil War.

“Even among Confederate statuary there are distinctions to be made. Surely, memorials honoring fallen soldiers rather than the cause they served – such as the memorial in Durham, NC, that was torn down by a leftist mob this week – should be exempt.  The problem now is that if statues of figures like Lee are to become rallying points for violent hate groups, then there’s an argument to be made for relegating them to museums and out of public view.

“Yet we also have a duty to defend figures like Roosevelt from these depredations. In addition to being a great president and uniquely heroic figure, TR’s place in front of the museum on Central Park West is a tribute to his status as our nation’s greatest environmentalist and has nothing to do with contemporary notions about diversity.

“It’s possible and necessary for a rational society to make distinctions between monuments erected to bolster segregation and those that are genuine expressions of patriotism and America’s highest ideals.

“Those who lack the moral compass to tell the difference shouldn’t be making these kinds of decisions.”

--Tony Horwitz / Washington Post

“The Confederate undead have a way of rising, zombie-like, to haunt the American landscape. First as ghostly hooded Klansmen right after the Civil War, and now as battle-flag-waving hate groups, rallying round a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville. The last Billy Yank passed quietly in Minnesota in the 1950s, but the spirit of Johnny Reb refuses to let go.

“Even so, it appears we’re nearing the end of the Confederacy’s interminable after-life. The white nationalists in Charlottesville may not have known or cared much about Robert E. Lee.  But in using his statue as a pretext for bigotry and violence, while wrapped in the rebel flag, they’ve demonstrated, yet again, that the Lost Cause can’t be cleansed or cloaked as benign ‘Southern heritage.’

“In fact, racists in Charlottesville may have unwittingly given America a truer image of the Confederacy than the 150-year fiction of the Lost Cause. When Southern states seceded, they baldly stated their reasons, including Northern hostility to the ‘beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery,’ and the ‘undeniable truths’ that Africans ‘were rightly held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race.’ Or, as Confederate vice-president Alexander Stephens said of his new government: ‘Its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man.’

“Efforts to sanitize the Confederacy began soon after Lee’s surrender in 1865.  As white Southerners struggled to make sense of devastating loss, they forged a potent mythology that endures to this day. The Civil War wasn’t about slavery. Rather, the South seceded and fought to defend its sovereignty against Northern aggression and federal tyranny. Confederates made a sublime sacrifice, knowing they would be overwhelmed by the North’s manpower and industrial might. The war was inevitably lost, but the cause was right.

“White Southerners etched this faith on monuments to their many martyrs. ‘No nation rose so white and fair; None fell so pure of crime’ reads an inscription in Augusta, Ga. At the head of this blameless legion rode Lee, a marble avatar of Southern honor and allegiance to homeland.

“The Lost Cause, as this creed became known, was embroidered with nostalgic paeans to a plantation society of genteel masters, hoop-skirted belles and happy ‘servants.’ As wartime hatreds waned, and the nation turned to sectional reconciliation rather than racial justice, Northern whites bought into the South’s chivalric fictions.  In 1923, the Senate even authorized a statue in Washington ‘in memory of the faithful slave mammies of the South.’  It wasn’t built, but then came ‘Gone With the Wind,’ a novel and movie that infected millions with the romance of the antebellum South.

“This love affair soured in the Civil Rights era, when Southern politicians and the Ku Klux Klan brandished the rebel battle flag as a totem of segregation and white supremacy.  Civil War historians put new emphasis on the role of slavery, and beginning in the 1980s, African Americans led the first concerted push to remove Confederate symbols, particularly the rebel emblems atop Southern capitols....

“The heritage movement lost as many battles as it won, but managed like Lee in 1864, to bring about a grinding stalemate.  Until, that is, Dylann Roof murdered nine African Americans in a Charleston church in 2015, in hopes of sparking a race war.  He had posted pictures of himself at Confederate and slave sites and waving a rebel flag. Thereafter, South Carolina removed the flag from its capitol grounds, and cities and states across the South began debating the removal of other symbols.

“The white supremacists in Charlottesville appear to have finished the demolition work Roof began, by recharging the movement to take down symbols of the Confederacy....

“As the debate over Confederate memory continues, it may be worth heeding the words of Robert E. Lee himself: ‘I believe it to be the duty of every one to unite in the restoration of the country.  I think it wisest not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the example of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife.’”

Rich Lowry / New York Post

“Robert E. Lee wasn’t a Nazi, and surely would have had no sympathy for the white supremacist goons who made his statue a rallying point in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend.

“That doesn’t change the fact that his statue is now associated with a campaign of racist violence against the picturesque town where Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. The statue of Lee was already slated for removal by the city, but the Battle of Charlottesville should be an inflection point in the broader debate over Confederate statuary ongoing in Richmond, Va., and localities around the country.

“The monuments should go. Some of them should be simply trashed, others transmitted to museums, battlefields and cemeteries. The heroism and losses of Confederate soldiers should be commemorated, but not in everyday public spaces where the monuments are flash-points in poisonous racial contention, with white nationalists often mustering in their defense.

“Some discrimination is in order. There’s no reason to honor Jefferson Davis, the blessedly incompetent president of the Confederacy. New Orleans just sent a statue of him into storage. Good riddance....

“Robert E. Lee, on the other hand, is a more complicated case. He was no great friend of slavery. He wrote in a letter to his wife that ‘slavery as an institution, is a moral political evil in any Country’ (he added, shamefully, that it was good for blacks – ‘the painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race’).

“After the war, he accepted defeat and did his part to promote national healing.

“Yet, faced with a momentous choice at the start of the war, he decided he was a Virginia patriot rather than an American nationalist.  He told one of President Abraham Lincoln’s advisers, ‘I look upon secession as anarchy. If I owned the 4 million slaves in the South I would sacrifice them all to the Union; but how can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native state?’

“He betrayed the U.S. government and fought on the side devoted to preserving chattel slavery.

“That is a grievous political sin, although he obviously wasn’t the only one guilty of it. The Civil War was an American conflict, with Americans on both sides. An honorable soldier, Lee is an apt symbol for the Confederate rank and file whose sacrifices in the war’s charnel house shouldn’t be flushed down the memory hole.

“The Baltimore commission has called for moving a striking dual statue of Lee and Stonewall Jackson to the Chancellorsville, Va., battlefield where the two last met before Jackson’s death. This would be appropriate, and take a page from the Gettysburg battlefield.

“A statue of Lee commemorates Virginia’s losses and overlooks the field where Gen. George Pickett undertook his doomed charge. If you can’t honor Robert E. Lee there, you can’t honor him anywhere.

“For some on the left, that’s the right answer, but this unsparing attitude rejects the generosity of spirit of the two great heroes of the war, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.  Notably, Grant vehemently opposed trying Lee for treason.

“For supporters of the Confederate monuments, removing them from parks and avenues will be a blow against their heritage and historical memory. But the statues have often been part of an effort to whitewash the Confederacy. And it’s one thing for a statue to be merely a resting place for pigeons; it’s another for it to be a fighting cause for neo-Nazis.

“Lee himself opposed building Confederate monuments in the immediate aftermath of the war.  ‘I think it wiser,’ he said, ‘not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.’

“After Charlottesville, it’s time to revisit his advice.”

Editorial Washington Post

“Let’s be clear. No one is talking about ripping the country apart – unless it’s the president himself.  The tons of Confederate iconography installed long ago were put there as part of an ideological campaign whose goals were to glorify men and women who betrayed the United States in the cause of human slavery and to marginalize descendants of the enslaved. That is historical fact. To hail the ‘beauty’ of the statues is to ignore all that, possibly for short-term political advantage, which is what factional demagogues always seek – but not true national leaders.”

Peggy Noonan / Wall Street Journal

“Condi Rice said it well, before the current controversy. She did not agree with the impulse to tear down.  ‘Keep your history before you,’ she said.  Keep it in your line of sight.

“And once the tearing down starts, there’s no knowing where it will end.  On this the president is right. Once the local statues are purged the Tear-Downers will look to Statuary Hall, and the names of military bases, and then on the Founders, to the slave-holding Washington and Jefferson. Then, perhaps, to their words and ideas.  In what way will that help us?

“Edmund Burke famously said we have a duty to the past, the present and the future.  In the minds of the Tear-Downers only the present is important, and only their higher morality. But they are not the first ever to recognize the truth about slavery.  Hundreds of thousands of dead Union soldiers did it before them. There are statures of them, to.

“Here is a better way.  Leave what is, alone. Be a noble people who inspire – and build – more statues.  I’d like one that honors the families of the victims in the Charleston shooting.

“More statues, not fewer; more honor, not more debris. More debris is the last thing we need.”

According to a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll, 62 percent of Americans think the statues should stay, while just 27 percent believe they should be removed because they’re offensive to some people.

--Trump tweet, Thursday: “Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!” 

Where do I freakin’ begin.  As some of you by now know, this was one of Trump’s campaign ‘stories,’ about how Pershing in the Philippines once had soldiers dip 50 bullets in pigs’ blood, before lining up 50 terrorists (read Muslim...it being illegal for them to eat pork) and then shooting 49 of them and telling the 50th to spread the word, and there wasn’t any terror for “25 years” after, as he told his audiences, not the 35 he tweeted.

But the story has been debunked by every legitimate historian imaginable.

--Guam and World War II

I wrote the following about 11 years ago, after one of my many visits to Guam.  Americans should know the history of this flashpoint:

“To refresh your memory, Guam was an American territory at the time of the start of WW II, as part of the settlement of the Spanish-American War in 1898.  But before the ‘Big One,’ the U.S. decided that Guam was indefensible and only stationed a small contingent on the island. We’re talking literally, just a few guns.

“The day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Guam was also bombed by Japanese forces (as was Manila as part of their coordinated plan).  [Understand this is 12/8, not 12/7, because of the time change and the international dateline.]  By December 10, the Japanese had moved in and the minimal American garrison surrendered, all except six, it would seem, including George Tweed.

“Tweed was the sole survivor of those Americans who escaped into the jungle on 12/10.  From that day until shortly before the American liberation in July 1944, he was hidden, clothed, and fed by the sympathetic Chamorro (the native people of Guam).  Many of the Chamorro risked torture but they considered Tweed a symbol of the U.S., of hope and freedom, and a cause they were willing to die for.  [Tweed died just a few years ago, so the park ranger told me.]

“There was another hero in the search for Tweed, Father Jesus Baza Duenas, the spiritual leader of the church on Guam. Father Duenas openly defied Japanese authority as he was suspected of harboring Tweed.  Duenas and his nephew were horribly tortured and then beheaded just days before the American liberation of Guam.  They never uttered a word to their captors.

“[In general, as the Americans began to recover in the Pacific the Japanese held ‘mass executions’ of the Chamorro because of their concern they would aid Allied invasion forces.]

“The U.S. might have ignored Guam except it was U.S. territory and many Chamorro served in the naval forces.  So on July 21, 1944, bombing commenced and by August 12 Guam was recaptured.  Over 1,000 Marines lost their lives in this battle, with the Japanese losing over 10,000 (3,200 in one night).  [And as I mentioned in ‘Week in Review,’ a Japanese sergeant, Yokoi, survived in the jungle until 1972!  Pre-brown tree snakes, mind you.]

“Following are a few quotes from those who lived through these times, as I gleaned in the WW II museum on the island.

“ ‘I didn’t say I hate them. I forgive them for what they did to many of the peoples, but I want them to know that I won’t forget it.’ –Juan Perez, Chamorro resident.

“ ‘Looking at this place right now, how beautiful it is, how peaceful it is, it’s hard to envision that it was such a site of bloodshed, violence. And I guess the world is just that way.  We’ll always solve our problems by killing each other.  But, unfortunately, it’s always the wrong people being killed.” –First Lieut. Jack Eddy / 9th Marine Division Liberation Force, as he recollected in 1993.

“And a postscript from my trip to Guam last week.  On my tour of the island, my guide, Hope, spent a lot of time in the cathedral at the capital.

“The Japanese were guilty of unspeakable acts against humanity, but as Hope put it, none was worse than making the priests at this church climb up and take down the crosses.”

--The Navy relieved the two top officers and the senior enlisted sailor of a destroyer that collided with a freighter off the coast of Japan in June, killing seven sailors in one of the deadliest accidents in years.

About a dozen sailors overall face career-killing administrative actions as a result of the collision of the destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the merchant ship ACX Crystal.

Commander Bryce Benson, and Cmdr. Sean Babbitt, the first- and second-in-command, were fired because the Navy “lost trust and confidence in their ability to lead,” Adm. William F. Moran, the vice chief of naval operations, told reporters on Thursday.

--After President Trump’s response to Charlotte, the nation’s military service chiefs all responded with full-throated statements rejecting extremism and intolerance.  Some were alarmed.  Fred Kaplan wrote in Slate: “If we lived in a different sort of country, this could fairly be seen as the prelude to a military coup.”

But the U.S. military has long struggled with hate groups – especially white supremacists – in its ranks.

In the 1980s, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger ordered the military to crack down on the groups, and then in 1995, it was an Army veteran, Timothy McVeigh, who planted the bomb in Oklahoma City, killing 168.

So there is historical context behind the concerns of the service chiefs.  They would also all have memories of the ‘80s and ‘90s.

--Lastly, congratulations to Army Cadet Simone Askew, who is the first African-American woman to hold the highest student position at the United States Military Academy at West Point, a truly historic moment.

---

Pray for the men and women of our armed forces...and all the fallen.

God bless America.

---

Gold $1290...was going to close above $1300 for first time this year, then fell back on Bannon news.
Oil $48.73

Returns for the week 8/14-8/18

Dow Jones  -0.8%  [21674]
S&P 500  -0.7%  [2425]
S&P MidCap
Russell 2000  -1.2%
Nasdaq  -0.6%  [6216]

Returns for the period 1/1/17-8/18/17

Dow Jones  +9.7%
S&P 500  +8.3%
S&P MidCap  +1.9%
Russell 2000  +0.05%
Nasdaq  +15.5%

Bulls 50.5
Bears 18.1

Have a great week...at least try to.  Enjoy the eclipse!

Brian Trumbore

 



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Week in Review

08/19/2017

For the week 8/14-8/18

[Posted 11:30 PM ET, Friday]

Note: StocksandNews has significant ongoing costs and your support is greatly appreciated.  Please click on the gofundme link or send checks to PO Box 990, New Providence, NJ 07974.

Edition 958

The following is extremely long and I wouldn’t expect anyone to read it all, but this is a running history and it was an historical week, so it requires a bit more examination.

This coming week could offer more of the same.  President Trump is due to speak at a rally in Arizona, which could be explosive, while there will be large-scale war exercises on the Korean Peninsula and surrounding waters. Dubbed Ulchi Freedom Guardian, some 17,500 U.S. service members as well as troops from South Korea and six other countries are taking part.  Certainly you’d expect Kim to fire off a bottle rocket or two in defiance.

But I was kind of surprised by a tweet from President Trump late this afternoon.  He was back in Bedminster after a meeting at Camp David today with Mike Pence and members of his national security team.

I thought he was spending at least part of the weekend there to strategize with the vice president in depth after this chaotic week. What am I missing?  The Camp David meeting, discussed below, couldn’t have been more than like three hours.

I start this week with North Korea because it is still the most important item.  What’s my adage?  ‘Wait 24 hours.’  Nothing has changed here.

But I break down Charlottesville below, I have a discussion on the CEO situation in the ‘Street Bytes’ section, and I get into the statuary issue in ‘Random Musings,’ all in depth.

I also had written a lot about Steve Bannon before he was fired this afternoon, and I’m leaving it as is.  It’s part of the record.  We will learn very quickly just how dangerous Bannon will now be on the outside...to Donald Trump, the Republican establishment, key agenda items, you name it.  For now, he’s right back at Breitbart.

Trump Blew It, Bigly...North Korea, Kim Blinked....

I wrote the following in “Week in Review,” 10/30/2010, from Guam:

“I find this to be the perfect place to break up a long trip of this kind and usually spend at least one night here to catch up on the world, and/or write.  I always stay on the main tourist drag, with beautiful views of the bay and ocean, plus the outdoor spots for having a burger and beer are a perfect place to watch the world go by.

“But Guam is also the site of a huge U.S. military buildup as we move our troops from the Philippines and Japan to here, and, according to the plan, eventually South Korea as well. The United States won’t have to worry about offending the locals here as they do in the other spots, though Washington must fulfill its promises to the people of Guam when it comes to needed improvements on the infrastructure front (namely roads and sewers with thousands of personnel and their families being added to the population base).  I’ve toured the island enough to know there are major issues in this regard.  It would also be nice if the military could eradicate the brown tree snake, but perhaps when world peace has broken out they can tackle this one.

“You see, Guam is a key hub for the Pacific Fleet, being close enough to protect not only our own interests in the key shipping lanes out this way, but also those of our allies such as South Korea and Japan. Some say, though, that our military assets aren’t as close as they should be, but given the politics of the Far East these days, I don’t see where else we could put them.

“The future also holds that Guam could become a huge target of its own in any conflict with, say, China, let alone if North Korea can improve on its rocketry beyond the water balloon phase. So I’m assuming the locals understand this as well. All the more reason why the American people need to understand just why we will be shelling out as much as we are going to here.  It’s a topic worthy of an Oval Office address next year.  It’s what presidents are supposed to do...educate the people on matters of import.”

[Ed. of course President Obama didn’t, and President Trump will just tweet stuff.]

So this week....

Saturday, in a phone call with President Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged Trump to avoid rhetoric that could exacerbate tensions with North Korea.

Sunday, in a joint op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sent a conciliatory message to Pyongyang.

“The U.S. has no interest in regime change or accelerated reunification of Korea. We do not seek an excuse to garrison U.S. troops north of the Demilitarized Zone,” quite different from President Trump’s talk of “fire and fury.”

Tillerson and Mattis said the U.S. aims “to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a dismantling of the regime’s ballistic-missile programs....

“While diplomacy is our preferred means of changing North Korea’s course of action, it is backed by military options....

“The U.S. is willing to negotiate with Pyongyang.  But given the long record of North Korea’s dishonesty in negotiations and repeated violations of international agreements, it is incumbent upon the regime to signal its desire to negotiate in good faith. A sincere indication would be the immediate cessation of its provocative threats, nuclear tests, missile launches and other weapons tests....

“North Korea now faces a choice. Take a new path toward peace, prosperity and international acceptance, or continue further down the dead alley of belligerence, poverty and isolation. The U.S. will aspire and work for the former, and will remain vigilant against the latter.”

Monday, Defense Secretary Mattis warned that a missile launched at the United States or its territories would be considered an act of war.

“If they shoot at the United States, I’m assuming they hit the United States. If they do that, it’s game on.”

Tuesday, North Korea pulled back its threat to attack Guam after China took steps the day before to ban imports of North Korean coal, iron and seafood to support the recently adopted U.N. sanctions.

Pyongyang’s state media said Kim had been briefed on a plan to fire missiles towards Guam, and that Kim would watch the actions of the United States for a while longer before making a decision on how to respond.

“The United States, which was the first to bring numerous strategic nuclear equipment near us, should first make the right decision and show through actions if they wish to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula and prevent a dangerous military clash,” Kim was quoted as saying.

President Trump tweeted: “Kim Jong Un of North Korea made a very wise and well-reasoned decision. The alternative would have been both catastrophic and unacceptable!”

But state media said Tuesday, Kim could change his mind “if the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions.”

What’s different this time, compared with a similar climbdown in the summer of 1994, when the Pentagon had plans to strike a small nuclear reactor within North Korea, is that Kim and his Orcs are continuing to perfect their missile program.  He is playing his old game of threats and then pull back, which buys more time; including for trade to resume normally once China lightens up, as is inevitable.

There can be a difference of opinion as to how advanced the North Korean program is, but does that really matter when we’ve seen the progress to date?  The technological breakthroughs, especially in the last two years, are a game changer.

Thursday, Tillerson and Mattis stressed that a military response remained on the table, a day after White House strategist Steve Bannon said there can be no military solution to the crisis.

At a joint news conference, Mattis and Tillerson affirmed that North Korea would face dire consequences if it went ahead with an attack.  [While in an interview with American Prospect, Wednesday, Bannon said there could be no military solution because tens of millions in South Korea would die in the first 30 minutes of any conflict.  I have more on this interview in “Random Musings.”]

Also Thursday, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, told reporters while in Beijing that President Trump had directly “told us to develop credible, viable military options and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”  Dunford was responding to questions on Bannon’s comments.

Dunford added: “As long as the threat in North Korea exists we need to maintain a high state of readiness to respond to that threat.”

The key now is can the U.S., Japan and South Korea get Kim to stop the missile launches?

South Korean President Moon Jae-in weighed in: “Military action on the Korean peninsula can only be decided by the Republic of Korea and no one may decide to take military action without the consent of the Republic of Korea,” a clear message that Seoul wanted to avoid war at all costs.

But Moon added there could be no dialogue before the North halts its “nuclear and missile provocations.”

With the U.S. and South Korean military forces gearing up to start large-scale air, land and sea maneuvers, the rhetoric between Pyongyang and Washington is bound to ratchet up all over again.

For its part, China called on the U.S. and South Korea to suspend the exercises as a show of good faith, but this was a non-starter.

In a CBS News Poll, most Americans say the U.S. should not threaten North Korea with military action, but would approve of it if diplomacy does not eventually stop its nuclear program.  But of course it breaks down along partisan lines.

Q: Should U.S. threaten military action against North Korea?

Total:  33% should; 59% should not. [63% Republicans should, 30% should not; 11% Democrats should, 82% should not.]

Q: Would you approve of military action if diplomacy doesn’t work?

Total: 58% approve; 34% disapprove. [80% Republicans approve, 16% disapprove; 43% Democrats approve, 50% disapprove.]

Q: President Trump’s ability to handle the North Korean nuclear situation:

Total: 38% confident; 59% uneasy. [77-22 Republicans; 6-90 Democrats.]

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has ordered its first probe into Chinese trade practices, though the president has said he would be amenable to going easy on Beijing if it were more aggressive in reining in North Korea.  U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is to determine if an investigation is warranted of “any of China’s laws, policies, practices or actions that may be unreasonable or discriminatory, and that may be harming American intellectual property , innovation and technology,” according to the administration.  [Heck, China violates  everything!]

But should the recommendation be to then launch a formal investigation, that could then take a year to conclude. 

Finally, last week I wrote of the Winter Olympics being held in South Korea and how this was nuts.  Today, the Wall Street Journal had a story that read in part, “North Korea is looming as an ominous problem months ahead of the Games.”

A French official told the Associated Press that the situation would be discussed at an upcoming IOC meeting, adding: “There is no reason to be too worried at the moment.  Of course if the tension escalates, we’ll need to adapt.”

Once the Games start, though, it’s too late.

One thing the U.S. could do, if we’re in the same situation then as we are now, is to postpone war exercises with South Korea for a spell during the Olympics; reduce the rhetoric for the month before and a few weeks after, but it will depend on Kim’s actions.

Mark Helprin / Wall Street Journal

“The North Korean nuclear crisis can be defused peacefully and to America’s advantage if its elements are perceived with strategic clarity, and if U.S. leaders recognize that diplomacy depends less upon signals than upon maneuver.

“Kim Jong Un is not entirely irrational. The purpose of his nuclear program is not to court annihilation but to deter American military options on the Korean Peninsula and change the correlation of forces in his favor.  North Korea created chemical and biological arsenals that effectively neutralized American tactical nuclear weapons and led to their withdrawal. What we see now is an amplification of that strategy, with the object of eventually driving American forces from Korea.

“It is extremely unlikely that Mr. Kim would strike, if at all, before his nuclear forces have matured in numbers and reliability. Relatively few of his delivery systems or miniaturized warheads have been extensively tested.   Nor have they been proven to work together. And the U.S. and Japan have multiple layers of midcourse and terminal-phase missile defenses.

“Thus, time remains to set in motion options on the escalation ladder between the fatal extremes of either doing nothing or taking precipitous military action. The problem is that these opportunities have not been exploited, the focus having been too much on Pyongyang rather than on Beijing, which can both completely shut down the North Korean economy and credibly threaten military intervention.

“To the extent that China is shifting, it is because it fears a war on its border, understands what such a war would do to its own and the world’s economy, fears even more that Japan and South Korea might develop nuclear deterrents, and sees that its nuclear calculus has been disrupted by the Thaad radar’s ability to enhance American missile defense via forwarding data on Chinese missile launches in boost phase.

“But this is not enough. As the last U.S. ambassador to China James Lilley said: ‘You won’t get anything from them unless you squeeze them.’  In view of America’s disappearing red lines, repeated nuclear capitulations to North Korea and Iran, the largely substanceless ‘pivot’ to Asia, and our passivity in the South China Sea, China will wait to see if we fold....

“Nothing would rivet China’s attention more than if the U.S. formally announced that absent the abolition of North Korea’s nuclear capacity it would look with favor upon and assist with a Japanese and/or South Korean nuclear deterrent, and then established a commission for this purpose. So as to de-link North Korea from the South China Sea, the U.S. should at this point make clear to China it is weighing supply of coastal anti-shipping missiles to the Philippines and Vietnam.  Establishing such a gauntlet to preserve sovereign rights and freedom of navigation is long overdue.

“These maneuvers well short of war can rebalance power, instill caution, and stabilize the increasingly volatile Western Pacific, as well as contribute to stability elsewhere. A cost-benefit analysis objectively applied will so depress the value to China of a rogue North Korea that China should find common ground with us in coordinating action and point of view. The choice need not be between capitulation and war, silence and bluster. But only if the United States decides upon carrying a bigger stick and speaking more softly.”

Reaction to Charlottesville....

Friday...Neo-Nazis and white supremacists marched through the historic University of Virginia campus with torches and Nazi garb, chanting among other vile things, “Jews will not replace us.”

Longtime poli-sci professor and elections expert, Larry Sabato, has been a fixture at Virginia, both as a student and academic, for decades.  Living right there on the quad, he said it was “scary.”  The video sure made it out to be.

Saturday....One woman was killed when a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters who’d gathered to oppose a rally by white nationalists and others who oppose a plan to remove from a Charlottesville park a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Two state troopers, whose helicopter had been following developments from the air, then died when their chopper crashed.

About two hours after we learned of the car attack, President Trump emerged at a previously scheduled appearance at his golf resort in New Jersey with Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.  Trump avoided any assignment of blame.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” he said, repeating the final phrase for emphasis.

“It’s been going on for a long time in our country; it’s not Donald Trump, it’s not Barack Obama,” he added, without specifying what ‘it’ is.

I watched this and was incredulous. I called our own Dr. Bortrum and said this was a watershed moment.

Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe said later on Saturday, “There is no place for (white nationalists) here.  There is no place for you in America.”

“So please, go home and never come back. Take your hatred and your bigotry.”

Sunday....Trump stayed silent while the White House defended his failure to explicitly condemn white supremacists over the Charlottesville violence.

Vice President Mike Pence, on a trip to South America, did condemn them.

“We have no tolerance for hate and violence, white supremacists or neo-Nazis or the KKK,” but he said the president was saying the same thing.

“President Trump clearly and unambiguously condemned the bigotry, violence and hatred that took place in the streets of Charlottesville.”

Pence said Trump spoke “from the heart.” The vice president also criticized the media for reporting on the criticism of Trump’s response.

“I take issue with the fact that many in the national media spent more time criticizing the president’s words than they did criticizing those that perpetuated the violence to begin with,” Pence said.

Sunday morning on “Meet the Press,” National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster attempted to stick up for his boss.

“The president has been very clear; we cannot tolerate this kind of bigotry, this kind of hatred. And what he did is he called on all Americans to take a firm stance against it. The president called out anyone who is responsible for fomenting this kind of bigotry, hatred, racism and violence.  I think the president was very clear on that.”

Monday....Trump went on damage control, changing his schedule to address the growing outrage over his tepid reaction to the violence initiated by neo-Nazis two days earlier.

In remarks read off a teleprompter at the White House that were moved up three hours, the president said:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America....

“Those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” naming for the first time the groups that sparked the rioting....

“We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal. We are equal in the eyes of our creator. We are equal under the law, and we are equal under our Constitution. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America,” adding that the Justice Department had opened a civil rights investigation into the violence.

“To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable.”

Trump took no questions, and started out by patting himself on the back for his accomplishments since taking office.

“Our economy is now strong. The stock market continues to hit record highs. Businesses are more optimistic than ever before.  Companies are moving back to the United States and bringing many thousands of jobs with them. We have already created over 1 million jobs since I took office,” he said. 

The president forces me once again to say the jobs growth is slightly less than 2016!

Editorial / Washington Post

“(What) punch do the right words pack when they are so obviously begrudging, belated and bestowed under the weight of overwhelming pressure?  Will white supremacists such as Richard Spencer, who gleefully noted that Mr. Trump’s initial statement blamed the violence on ‘many sides,’ while saying nothing about racists, really feel the sting of rebuke?”

And, indeed, later Monday, after calling out the KKK and white supremacists, Trump appeared to regret it and tweeted around 6:30 p.m.: “Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the #FakeNews Media will never be satisfied...truly bad people!”

It was a hint of things to come.

Tuesday....President Trump started out by holding an informal news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, intended to showcase his infrastructure program and the easing of regulations on the construction industry.

But it suddenly went way off the rails in a back-and-forth with reporters that the president’s aides in no way intended for their boss to get into.

Facing a barrage of questions from reporters about why he did not immediately condemn racist protesters and the KKK by name on Saturday (though he did Monday), Trump said there is “blame on both sides.”

“What about the alt-left that came charging at the – as you say, the alt-right?” Trump asked.  “Do they have any semblance of guilt? What about the fact they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs?  Do they have any problem?  I think they do. As far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day.”

“I will tell you something,” the president continued.  “I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it. And you had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent.

“And nobody wants to say that. But I’ll say it right now.  You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent.”

But he added there were “very fine people on both sides.”

Trump also said that not all of those attending the white nationalist “Unite the Right” protest were racists. Some, said the president, were only there to protest the taking down of a Confederate statue.

“I have condemned neo-Nazis. I have condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me,” said the president.  “Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee.”

When it came to Saturday’s statement and his failure to specifically condemn Nazi and white supremacist groups, Trump said that “before I make a statement, I like to know the facts,” which is laughable, to say the least...given his track record.

On the issue of taking down statues, Trump said: “This week, it is Robert E. Lee and then Stonewall Jackson.  Is it George Washington next?  You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”  [Ed. I have much more on this specific topic down below.]

In response to the president’s performance, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke tweeted: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth.”

White nationalist leader Richard Spencer, who participated in the weekend’s demonstrations and vowed to flood Charlottesville with similar protests in the coming weeks, was equally encouraged.  “Trump’s statement was fair and down to earth,” Spencer tweeted.

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia immediately accused the president of adding to the divisions that put an unwanted spotlight on Charlottesville.

“Neo-Nazis, Klansmen and white supremacists came to Charlottesville heavily armed, spewing hatred and looking for a fight. One of them murdered a young woman in an act of domestic terrorism, and two of our finest officers were killed in a tragic accident while serving to protect this community. This was not ‘both sides.’”

Back at Trump Tower, you could see the frustration on the face of the likes of chief of staff John Kelly, let alone National Economic Council Chairman Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, both of whom are Jewish.

Wednesday....Trump stayed silent on Charlottesville, but the CEOs went off, as described below.

Thursday....President Trump hit back at his critics and reiterated his opposition to the removal of monuments to the pro-slavery Civil War Confederacy, tweeting:

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.  You can’t change history, but you can learn from it....

“Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”

[A CBS News Poll revealed that 34% approve of President Trump’s response to Charlottesville, 55% disapprove.  67-22 Republicans; 10-82 Democrats; 32-53 Independents.]

Statements from Congressional and other figures....

House Speaker Paul Ryan: “We must be clear.   White supremacy is repulsive.  This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for.  There can be no moral ambiguity.”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) said Trump’s remarks were dividing the nation and at odds with many Republicans’ views.  “Your words are dividing Americans, not healing them.  (Trump) took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and” others opposed to such groups.

Separately, Graham said on Fox News Sunday: “(Trump) missed an opportunity to be very explicit here.”  The white nationalists “seem to believe they have a friend in Donald Trump in the White House...I would urge the president to dissuade them of the [idea] that he is sympathetic to their cause.”

[Thursday, Trump tweeted, “Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer. Such a disgusting lie. He just can’t forget his election trouncing.  The people of South Carolina will remember!”  Graham then replied: “Because of the manner in which you have handled the Charlottesville tragedy you are now receiving praise from some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country. For the sake of our Nation – as our President – please fix this.”]

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.): “The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate.

“Having watched the horrifying video of the car deliberately crashing into a crowd of protesters, I urge the Department of Justice to immediately investigate and prosecute this grotesque act of domestic terrorism.”

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.): “The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win. We cannot allow this old evil to be resurrected....Very important for the nation to hear [Trump] describe events in Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by white supremacists.”

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah): “We should call evil by its name.  My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.): “Mr. President, we must call evil by its name.”

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.): “The #WhiteSupremacy in #Charlottesville does not reflect the values of the America I know.  Hate and bigotry have no place in this country.”

[Thursday, Trump tweeted on Flake (“Flake Jeff Flake”): “WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!”...as he seemed to endorse Flake’s 2018 primary opponent Dr. Kelli Ward.

Republican Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.): “Domestic terror in #Charlottesville must be condemned by every single one of us.  Otherwise hate is simply emboldened.”

Ivanka Trump: “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazis. We must all come together as Americans – and be one country UNITED.”

Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s former communications director, on ABC’s This Week: “I wouldn’t have recommended that statement. I think he needed to be much harsher as it related to the white supremacists.  It’s actually terrorism, whether it’s domestic or international terrorism.  With the moral authority of the presidency you have to call that stuff out.”

In a rare joint statement, former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, implicitly condemned Trump’s reaction to the violence.

“As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city’s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights.  We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country.”

GOP pollster Frank Luntz said, “The one thing the president still has going for him is his lock on Trump voters. He hasn’t won any converts, and the establishment has turned against him, but he still controls his base.”

Justin Moore, the “grand dragon” of the North Carolina-based Loyal White Knights of Ku Klux Klan, said he was “glad” a woman was killed while protesting the rally.

“I’m sorta glad that them people got hit, and I’m glad that girl died,” Moore said in a voicemail for a reporter at WBTV in Charlotte.  “To me, they were a bunch of communists out there protesting against somebody’s freedom of speech, so it doesn’t bother me that they got hurt at all.”

Former President Barack Obama, quoting Nelson Mandela: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion...”

Republican Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), Thursday:  “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs to demonstrate in order for him to be successful – and our nation and our world needs for him to be successful, whether you are Republican or Democrat.”

Corker continued: “(Trump) also recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation. He has not demonstrated that he understands what has made this nation great and what it is today.  And he’s got to demonstrate the characteristics of a president who understands that.  Without the things I just mentioned happening, our nation is going to go through great peril.”

Sen. Tim Scott, in an interview with Vice News, questioned the president’s moral authority following Charlottesville: “I’m not going to defend the indefensible...[Trump’s] comments on Monday were strong.  His comments on Tuesday started erasing the comments that were strong. What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority.  And that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happened.  There’s no question about that.”  [Scott added that Trump hasn’t reached out to him to discuss Charlottesville...which is amazing.]

Opinion....

Michael Gerson / Washington Post

“One of the difficult but primary duties of the modern presidency is to speak for the nation in times of tragedy.  A space shuttle explodes. An elementary school is attacked.  The twin towers come down in a heap of ash and twisted steel.  It falls to the president to express something of the nation’s soul – grief for the lost, sympathy for the suffering, moral clarity in the midst of confusion, confidence in the unknowable purposes of God.

“Not every president does this equally well. But none have been incapable.  Until Donald Trump.

“Trump’s reaction to events in Charlottesville was alternately trite (‘come together as one’), infantile (‘very, very sad’) and meaningless (‘we want to study it’).  ‘There are so many great things happening in our country,’ he said, on a day when racial violence took a life.  At one level, this is the natural result of defining authenticity as spontaneity.  Trump and his people did not believe the moment worthy of rhetorical craft, worthy of serious thought.  The president is confident that his lazy musings are equal to history. They are not. They are babble in the face of tragedy.  They are an embarrassment and disservice to the country.”

Michael Eric Dyson / New York Times

“The late, great Gore Vidal said that we live in ‘The United States of Amnesia.’  Our fatal forgetfulness flares when white bigots come out of their closets, emboldened by the tacit cover they’re given by our president.  We cannot pretend that the ugly bigotry unleashed in the streets of Charlottesville, Va., this weekend has nothing to do with the election of Donald Trump.

“In attendance was white separatist David Duke, who declared that the alt-right unity fiasco ‘fulfills the promises of Donald Trump.’ In the meantime, Mr. Trump responded by offering false equivalencies between white bigots and their protesters.  His soft denunciations of hate ring hollow when he has white nationalist advisers like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller whispering in his ear....

“It is disheartening for black folk to see such a vile and despicable replay of history. Facing this unadorned hate tears open wounds from atrocities that we have confronted throughout our history.  It is depressing to explain to our children that what we confronted as children may be the legacy they bequeath to their children as well....

“Now is the time for every decent white American to prove he or she loves this country by actively speaking out against the scourge this bigotocracy represents.”

Editorial / Wall Street Journal (Sun. p.m.)

“As ever in this age of Donald Trump, politicians and journalists are reducing the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday to a debate over Mr. Trump’s words and intentions. That’s a mistake no matter what you think of the President, because the larger poison driving events like those in Virginia is identity politics and it won’t go away when Mr. Trump inevitably does.

“The particular pathology on display in Virginia was the white nationalist movement led today by the likes of Richard Spencer, David Duke and Brad Griffin. They alone are to blame for the violence that occurred when one of their own drove a car into peaceful protesters, killing a young woman and injuring 19 others....

“Mr. Trump was widely criticized for his initial statement Saturday afternoon that condemned the hatred ‘on many sides’ but failed to single out the white nationalists.  Notably, David Duke and his allies read Mr. Trump’s statement as attacking them and criticized the President for doing so....

“(But) as so often with Mr. Trump, his original statement missed an opportunity to speak like a unifying political leader.

“Yet the focus on Mr. Trump is also a cop-out because it lets everyone duck the deeper and growing problem of identity politics on the right and left.  The politics of white supremacy was a poison on the right for many decades, but the civil-rights movement rose to overcome it, and it finally did so in the mid-1960s with Martin Luther King Jr.’s language of equal opportunity and color-blind justice.

“That principle has since been abandoned, however, in favor of a new identity politics that again seeks to divide Americans by race, ethnicity, gender and even religion.  ‘Diversity’ is now the all-purpose justification for these divisions, and the irony is that America is more diverse and tolerant than ever.

“The problem is that the identity obsessives want to boil down everything in American life to these categories. In practice this means allocating political power, contracts, jobs and now even salaries in the private economy based on the politics of skin color or gender rather than merit or performance.  Down this road lies crude political tribalism, and James Damore’s recent Google dissent is best understood as a cri de coeur that we should aspire to something better.  Yet he lost his job merely for raising the issue.”

Editorial / The Economist

“Defenders of President Donald Trump offer two arguments in his favor – that he is a businessman who will curb the excesses of the state; and that he will help America stand tall again by demolishing the politically correct taboos of left-leaning, establishment elites.  From the start, these arguments looked like wishful thinking.  After Mr. Trump’s press conference in New York on August 15th they lie in ruins....

“In New York, as his new chief of staff looked on dejected, Mr. Trump let rip, stressing once again that there was blame ‘on both sides.’  He left no doubt which of those sides lies closer to his heart.

“Mr. Trump is not a white supremacist. He repeated his criticism of neo-Nazis and spoke out against the murder of Heather Heyer. Even so, his unsteady response contains a terrible message for Americans. Far from being the savior of the Republic, their president is politically inept, morally barren and temperamentally unfit for office....

“In difficult times a president has a duty to unite the nation.  Mr. Trump tried in Monday’s press conference, but could not sustain the effort for even 24 hours because he cannot get beyond himself.  A president needs to rise above the point-scoring and to act in the national interest.  Mr. Trump cannot see beyond the latest slight. Instead of grasping that his job is to honor the office he inherited, Mr. Trump is bothered only about honoring himself and taking credit for his supposed achievements.

“Presidents have come in many forms and still commanded the office. Ronald Reagan had a moral compass and the self-knowledge to delegate political tactics.  LBJ was a difficult man but had the skill to accomplish much that was good. Mr. Trump has neither skill nor self-knowledge, and this week showed that he does not have the character to change.

“This is a dangerous moment.  America is cleft in two. After threatening nuclear war with North Korea, musing about invading Venezuela and equivocating over Charlottesville, Mr. Trump still has the support of four-fifths of Republican voters. Such popularity makes it all the harder for the country to unite.

“This leads to the question of how Republicans in public life should treat Mr. Trump. Those in the administration face a hard choice. Some will feel tempted to resign. But his advisers, particularly the three generals sitting at the top of the Pentagon, the National Security Council and as Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, are better placed than anyone to curb the worst instincts of their commander-in-chief.

“For Republicans in Congress the choice should be clearer.  Many held their noses and backed Mr. Trump because they thought he would advance their agenda. That deal has not paid off.  Mr. Trump is not a Republican, but the solo star of his own drama. By tying their fate to his, they are harming their country and their party. His boorish attempts at plain speaking serve only to poison national life. Any gains from economic reform – and the booming stock market and low unemployment owe more to the global economy, tech firms and dollar weakness than to him – will come at an unacceptable price.

“Republicans can curb Mr. Trump if they choose to. Rather than indulging his outrages in the hope that something good will come of it, they must condemn them.  The best of them did so this week.  Others should follow.”

Editorial / New York Post

“Charlottesville wasn’t about the statue.

“Self-proclaimed ‘white nationalists’ have been using the Robert E. Lee monument as the pretext for a series of rallies to win attention and build their ranks. And the organizers are eager to bring in white supremacists, the Klan, neo-Nazis and their ilk.

“Any normal person of good will who did show up for the sake of the statue would take a look at the rest of the crowd and get the hell out.

“The vast majority of the counter-protesters turned out to oppose the Nazis, the Klan and anyone happy to march with them. Also in the ranks were some ‘antifa’ types – people nominally of the left who like to dress up as ninjas and get violent with anyone they see as ‘fascists.’

“Since this was the third rally within weeks, ‘each side’ (meaning most of the ‘nationalists’ and a fringe of the counter-protest) arrived armed, armored and ready to rumble.

“Charlottesville authorities made the huge mistake of not keeping the protesters and counter-protesters widely separated. Regardless of who made the first move, the whole situation was a powder keg set amid open flames.

“The villain who drove his car into a crowd took the whole thing up to the level of terrorism, but it was plenty toxic before then.

“Precious little in all this says anything about the debate among sane Americans, who are perfectly able to resolve the minor question of whether any monument should go by normal democratic means, without a host of out-of-towners coming in to hold torchlit marches and fight in the streets.

“That said: If the Klan or ‘white nationalists’ lead the defense of any statue anywhere in this nation, it’s going to come down. ‘Good guys’ don’t want to stand with Nazis, and precious few Americans will even hear the ‘What’s next, George Washington?’ argument if it’s preceded by claims to the contrary.

“Note, though, that the whole anti-statue drive (like the push to rename buildings and so on) reeks of political calculation.  It’s all about symbols, not substance: None of these changes will feed the hungry, help a child get a good education or even shift race relations.

‘No: They’re simply issues on which you can claim the moral high ground, mobilize a movement, score a clear victory – and repeat, with the leaders gaining power and profit along the way.  (In good measure, this is a bid to co-opt the Black Lives Matter movement, whose goals were largely too vague or far-reaching to allow for the regular ‘wins’ that organizers have to have.)

“As noted above,  the white-nationalist leaders are playing a version of the same game –though their movement is still at the ‘nursing grievances’ stage, and will likely never reach the ‘collecting wins’ one.

“Except, of course, that they claim President Trump’s win last November as one of their victories. It wasn’t, though Trump often seems confused about that.

“White nationalists and the ‘alt-right’ are a miniscule part of the electorate – though their profiles have been elevated by the Web and social media and by media forces eager to make them the face of the Trump vote.”

Daniel Henninger / Wall Street Journal

“Charlottesville was a warning. The warning is that America’s politics is steadily disconnecting from reality. Our politics is starting to seem psychotic.

“Generally people get into politics to accomplish something concrete or achievable – the passage of a piece of legislation or of identifiable public policies whose purpose is to make things better.  In a word, progress.

“The right and the left have disagreed for centuries on what works, but they at least shared a belief that the point of their political activity was to accomplish something real.

“Charlottesville was a political riot.  Is Charlottesville the future?

“Some may say the Charlottesville riot was the lunatic fringe of the right and left, with no particular relevance to what falls in between. But I think Charlottesville may be a prototype of a politics that is drifting away from traditional norms of behavior and purpose.

“Street protest has become the politics du jour.  Groups form constantly in the streets to chant slogans. America’s campuses live amid perpetual protest....

“In January the weekend that Donald Trump was inaugurated, I watched a group of protesters sit down and block traffic at a main intersection in Santa Barbara, Calif.  It seemed like a play date.  The cops watched like bemused adults.

“Charlottesville wasn’t a play date. It was a pitched battle between two organized mobs – the white nationalist groups on the right and the badly underreported Antifa, or ‘antifascist,’ groups on the hard-as-stone left.  Stories about Antifa’s organized violence are trickling out now, but there is no conceivable journalistic defense for having waited so long to inform the public about this dangerous movement.

“The phenomenon that enables politics without purpose is the internet. It is the group-organizing tool for psychologically disassociated young people on the left and on the right, like James Alex Fields Jr., who allegedly drove his car into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer. She won’t be the last casualty.

“Fields makes me think of the lone-wolf jihadists here and in Europe who explode out of the general population in a homicidal rage. These are people who sit endlessly in front of a computer screen, brainwashing themselves with online propaganda until they snap to make a ‘political statement.’ The internet – websites, social media, message boards – is elevating political paranoia and delegitimizing normal politics.

“Earlier this week, Britain’s head of counterterrorism policing, Mark Rowley, described the new reality: ‘What we’re wrestling with today is something which is more of a cultish movement where they are putting out propaganda and saying ‘anybody and everybody, act in our name and you’re part of our terrorist campaign.’’

“But, the argument goes, these behavioral extremes have no relevance to or effect on the rest of public life.  I’m not so sure. There have been a series of events lately that suggest the most basic requirements of intellectual or political seriousness are losing ground inside institutions that once provided ballast against the extremes.

“The Google firing of James Damore was one of these big events. Its meaning was that the goal of diversity, whatever its original intent, has become mostly a totem.  Mr. Damore was the little boy in the folk tale ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes,’ who shouts, ‘But he doesn’t have anything on!’  Google’s emperors banished James Damore for unmasking their diversity conceit....

“Amid this torrent, an odd paradox emerges: People are consuming more content and detail about politics than ever, and more people than ever are saying, ‘I have no idea what is going on.’  Someone is at fault here, and it is not the confused absorbers of information.

“Charlottesville is being pounded into the national psyche this week as a paroxysm of white nationalism. On current course, the flight from politics is going to look like rational behavior.”

Editorial / Washington Post

“Tuesday was a great day for David Duke and racists everywhere. The president of the United States all but declared that he has their backs.

“When a white supremacist stands accused of running his car into a crowd of protesters, killing one and injuring 19, Americans of goodwill mourn and demand justice. When this is done in the context of a rally where swastikas are borne and racist and anti-Semitic epithets hurled, the only morally justifiable reaction is disgust. When the nation’s leader does not understand this, the nation can only weep.

“On Saturday, after the murder of an innocent protester in Charlottesville followed marches that included armed men and Nazi salutes, President Trump’s instinct was to blame both sides. Widespread criticism followed, including the resignation of business leaders from a White House advisory council and condemnation from political leaders of both parties.  On Monday, Mr. Trump read a prepared statement condemning white supremacists and racism, delivering it in a manner suggesting he neither wrote nor endorsed the words.  On Tuesday, he removed any doubt: His initial reaction, putting Nazis and those protesting them on equal moral footing, is how he really feels.

“ ‘I think there’s blame on both sides.  You look at – you look at both sides,’ Mr. Trump said to reporters in Trump Tower, adding that there were ‘very fine people, on both sides.’  We’ve all seen the videotape: One side was composed of Nazis, Klansmen and other avowed racists chanting ‘Jews will not replace us.’ The other side was objecting to their racism.

“Yes, there are good and moral Americans who oppose the removal of statues of Confederate generals. Yes, there are reasonable Americans who fear that slaveholding Founding Fathers will be the next target. Notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s comments Tuesday, we don’t find it difficult to distinguish between a monument to George Washington, say, and statues to Confederate generals that were erected in the 20th century with the goal of maintaining white supremacy.

“There may be a time to debate such questions – but not, as any national leader with a sense of decency would understand, now.  Not in a time of mourning, with the wounds so fresh.  Not when Mr. Trump has not even bothered to call the family of Heather Heyer... Not when Americans are looking for a clear and unequivocal condemnation of the hatred that brought those 700 marchers to Charlottesville.

“That car in Charlottesville did not kill or wound just the 20 bodies it struck. It damaged the nation.  Mr. Trump not only failed to help the country heal; he made the wound wider and deeper.”

John Podhoretz / New York Post

“On Tuesday afternoon we learned yet again that the president of the United States is against neo-Nazis, which is nice. They’re ‘very rough,’ he said at an impromptu Trump Tower press conference – by which he likely meant some of the people he saw on TV in Charlottesville this past Saturday had beards and leather jackets and swastika tattoos and were overweight.

“The night before, by contrast, Trump said there had been some ‘very good people’ rallying with ‘a permit’ by a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville. Maybe he thought so because the photographs we all saw showed clean-cut young men in Polo shirts and Dockers.

“The rest of us also saw them engaging in Nazi salutes and carrying torches.

“Those images seem to have eluded the president.

“The president suggested many had been there on Friday night because they cared deeply about the fact that a Robert E. Lee statue in a Charlottesville park is due to be moved.

“Trump did not note that they were not locals with aesthetic concerns but rather had been summoned from all over the country under the slogan of ‘Unite the Right.’

“The ad promoting the ‘Unite the Right’ rally, which ran on far-right websites all week, did not even mention the statue. It was designed to evoke a Fascist poster with birds similar to the Nazi eagle in the sky over the marchers and Confederate flags taking the place of swastikas.

“It invited people to join speakers like...Augustus Invictus, an alt-right figure who once said, ‘I have prophesied for years that I was born for a Great War, that if I did not witness the coming of the Second American Civil War I would begin it myself.’...And Michael Hill, an ex-professor who said, in 2015, ‘Never underestimate the perfidy of the organized Jew.’ And Matt Heimbach, who says only 27,000 Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

“The march’s own organizer, Jason Kessler, described the view of those who wanted to move the statue thus: ‘You don’t give a damn about white people. You people are implementing policies which are displacing us in our home countries, and we will not be allowed to survive.’

“I don’t think statuary was his primary concern.

“The president did something absolutely horrifying in that press conference.  He bristled at the use of the term ‘alt-Right’ by a reporter and demanded to know from her what she meant by it. He drew a distinction between the neo-Nazis – ‘very rough’ – and the members of the alt-Right who rallied with torches on Friday night, chanting ‘Jews shall not replace us.’

“It was this group, these alt-Rightniks, that Trump said featured ‘some very good people.’ By saying this, he was not only committing an infamy.  He actually seemed to be doing constituent service for a group that supported him.

“As David French writes, ‘When Trump carves [the alt-Right] away from the Nazis and distinguishes them from the neo-Confederates, he’s doing exactly what they want. He’s making them respectable. He’s making them different.’

“That such words could actually emerge from the mouth of the president of the United States is one of the most disheartening facts of my lifetime.”

Earlier, in a separate op-ed, Podhoretz wrote after Trump’s statement on Saturday:

“I couldn’t live with myself if I supported a president who can’t bring himself to denounce Nazis and white supremacists unqualifiedly and by name.

“I’ve also been basically ordered to support the president by conservative intellectuals for the good of America, just as Daenerys Targaryen keeps telling Jon Snow on ‘Game of Thrones’ to bend the knee to save Westeros.

“ ‘This is a civil war,’ the former media mogul Conrad Black wrote this week about the liberals who are seeking to destroy Trump, and Black insists that ‘the choice, for sane conservatives, is Trump or national disaster.’

“Really? And what if the choice is between national disaster and...national disaster?

“Like everybody else, our president watched video of a white supremacist deliberately drive a car into a crowd of liberal protesters, and then back up the car and drive back over them again. And our president responded by condemning violence ‘on many sides’ and offering his ‘best regards’ to the casualties.

“This was not a mistake on Trump’s part. This was a deliberate communications choice. It has a discomfiting parallel with the now-forgotten moment one week after Trump’s swearing in when his administration issued a statement on Holocaust remembrance that did not mention Jews....

“The president’s refusal to name the evil in our midst is the behavior of a man whose moral sense is stunted – if he has a moral sense at all. This is what I feared would be the case when he became president.

“Perhaps those who say I have an obligation as a conservative to support Trump should wonder what their moral obligations require.”

Peggy Noonan / Wall Street Journal

“The political aspect of the president’s failures this week is to reveal him as increasingly isolated. He is not without supporters, but it’s down to roughly a third of the country and one senses soft around the edges. That is not a base, it’s a core.  A core can have an impact, but a president cannot govern if that’s all he has.  You need something bigger behind you to scare your foes and stiffen your friends. The nation’s CEOs, feeling personal dismay and external pressure, ran for the exits. The president has further embarrassed and frustrated his party on Capitol Hill. That puts in further doubt needed legislation on such popular issues as tax reform and infrastructure, which might fare better if he were not associated with them.

“Other fallout the past week is as consequential. Donald Trump is binding himself down with thick chords of rhetorical inadequacy.  People felt let down, angry and in some cases frightened by his inability to make clear moral distinctions when he addressed the events in Charlottesville, Va.  There were neo-Nazis, anti-Semitic chants, white supremacists; a woman was killed and many people injured.  It’s not hard to figure out who and what needed to be castigated – clearly, unambiguously, immediately.

“Here is a cliché but only because it is true: In times of stress and fracture, people want a president who’s calm in the storm, who speaks to the nation’s moral conscience, recalls first principles, evokes what unites us, honestly defines the contours of an event, and softly instructs.  Mr. Trump did not do any of that.  If a leader is particularly gifted he could, in a moment of historical stress, succeed in speaking to the nation’s soul and moving its heart by addressing its brain. This kind of thing comes from love – of the country, our people, what we’ve been.  It struck me this week as he spoke that his speeches and statements are peculiarly loveless. The public Mr. Trump is not without sentiment and occasional sentimentality, but the deeper wells of a broader love seem not there to draw from. Seven months in, people know they can look to him for a reaction, a statement, an announcement, but not for comfort, inspiration, higher meaning.”

Michael Goodwin / New York Post

“Two weeks ago, the Post reported that the Army rejected a request to rename streets at Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton that honor Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, who were stationed there in the 1840s.

“Rep. Yvette Clarke vowed to keep fighting for the change, saying ‘These monuments are deeply offensive to the hundreds of thousands of Brooklyn residents and members of the armed forces stationed at Fort Hamilton whose ancestors Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson fought to hold in slavery.’

“She’s right, but the Army also made an important point. It said the generals are part of military history and street-name honors were made ‘in the spirt of reconciliation’ after the war.

“That spirit of reconciliation, reflected in the lenient terms of military surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, was captured by President Lincoln at his second inaugural.  Speaking on March 4th, 1865, as the war was winding down and 40 days before his assassination, Lincoln recounted in somber eloquence the horror that had befallen both North and South with the clear suggestion it was divine punishment for the sin of slavery. He concluded with these remarkable words:

“ ‘With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.’

“Should Lincoln and his ideals also be torn down and trashed? Have our divisions become so deep that the only way to settle them is with another Civil War?”

Thomas L. Friedman / New York Times

“I’ve been on the road since the Charlottesville killing. I am traveling around the Arab world and Afghanistan with the chief of the U.S. Air Force, Gen. David Goldfein; his civilian boss, the Air Force secretary, Heather Wilson; and their aides. We’re currently at the giant Al Udeid Air Base (Qatar), from which America’s entire ISIS-Syria-Iraq-Afghanistan air war is run.

“With all the news from Charlottesville, I was feeling in the wrong place at the wrong time. And then I looked around me here, and the connection with Charlottesville became obvious....

“I look around and see our Air Force chief, who is of Eastern European Jewish descent, reporting to a woman Air Force secretary, who was among the early women graduates of the Air Force Academy and whose senior aide is an African-American woman lieutenant colonel. The base commander here in Qatar, overseeing the whole air war, is of Armenian descent, and his top deputy is of Lebanese descent.

“In the control center I’m introduced to the two Russian-speaking U.S. servicemen who 10 to 12 times a day get on the local ‘hotline’ with the Russian command post in Syria to make sure Russian planes don’t collide with ours.  One of the servicemen was born in Russia and the other left Kiev, Ukraine, just five years ago, in part, he told me, because he dreamed of joining the U.S. Air Force: ‘This is the country of opportunity.’

“Then we get a briefing from the combat innovation team, which is designing a new algorithm for dynamic targeting with colleagues in Silicon Valley. I ask their commander about his last name – Ito – and he explains, ‘My dad is from Cuba and my mother is from Mexico.’ The intelligence briefing was delivered by ‘Captain Yang.’

“The very reason America is the supreme power in this region is that the U.S. military can take all of those different people and make them into a fist. And the very reason we are stuck in this region and can’t get out is that so many of the nation-states and people here are fighting only for their exclusivist dreams of supremacy – Shiite supremacy, Sunni supremacy, Alawite supremacy, Taliban supremacy, Turkish supremacy and Persian supremacy....

“None of the U.S. military people here talk U.S. politics.  But I do. As a citizen, I say they deserve a commander in chief who does not need three tries to grudgingly denounce violent white supremacists. Pluralism is our true source of strength at home and abroad. It has to be nurtured, celebrated and protected from its enemies everywhere and always....

“The good news?  ISIS, having been largely defeated in Iraq, will most likely be defeated in Syria, too, by Americans, Kurds, Russians, Syrians, Iranians and pro-Iranian militias. The bad news?  There is a good chance that ISIS’ territory will ultimately fall under Iran’s sway.”

Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, delivered a powerful speech at her memorial service on Wednesday, calling on people to “find a way to make a difference,” adding, this was “just the beginning of Heather’s legacy, not the end.”

“They killed my child to shut her up. Well guess what, you just magnified her,” she said.

“I’d rather have my child, but by golly, if I’m going to give her up, we’re going to make it count.”

Susan Bro told ABC News Friday that she had not heard from President Trump and did not want to talk to him at this point.

Wall Street

The Federal Reserve released the minutes from its July 25-26 meeting and policymakers appeared increasingly wary about recent weak inflation, with some calling for a halt to further interest rate hikes, which no one now expects in September, but December is still on the table.

At the same time, the Fed seems ready to begin reducing its $4.2 trillion balance sheet...portfolio of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

And...“Many participants...saw some likelihood that inflation might remain below 2 percent for longer than they currently expected, and several indicated that the risks to the inflation outlook could be tilted to the downside.”

But New York Fed president William Dudley said on Monday that he favors another rate rise this year if the economy evolves as he expects.

Dudley said he expect the labor market to continue to tighten, with higher wage gains that will move inflation to the 2% objective.

Meanwhile, in terms of economic data for the week, July retail sales rose a stronger-than-expected 0.6%, with June revised to 0.3% from -0.2%.  The 0.6% figures is the best in seven months.

But the retail sector itself continues to take it on the chin, with most continuing to report declining sales, though there are some figures down below that are better than the bulk of their competition.

Retailers are struggling to raise prices with low inflation and wages.

July housing starts came in less than expected, while July industrial production was in line, 0.2%.

Europe and Asia

First some economic news in the eurozone.  A flash estimate on GDP for the second quarter, as put out by Eurostat, shows an increase of 0.6% for the EA19, up from the first quarter pace of 0.5%.

Compared with the same quarter a year ago, GDP rose 2.2%, up from 1.9%.

Germany’s GDP rose 2.1% vs. a year ago, France 1.8%, Spain 3.1%, and Italy 1.5%.

Inflation for July was just 1.3% annualized in the eurozone, according to Eurostat, stable compared with June and still well off the European Central Bank’s target of 2%.  [Germany 1.5%, France 0.8%, Italy 1.2%, Spain 1.7%.]

Meanwhile, ECB President Mario Draghi has a dilemma. The euro has risen strongly the past few months, to basically a 1 ½-year high against the dollar, which means holiday makers traveling abroad can buy more overseas, but they also pay less for imports which is a result of lower prices, thus lower inflation in the eurozone, while the strong euro is definitely beginning to dampen exports.

So while many are clamoring for the ECB to ease back significantly on its quantitative easing program, without inflation it’s difficult to build a case for doing so (similar to the Fed’s issue of raising rates with inflation here also well below the 2% target).

Another issue, as I’ve been writing for years, is the fact the ECB is finding it increasingly difficult to find eligible assets for purchase in its QE program, unless it relaxes the rules on what it can buy. As Archie Bunker would have said, they’re getting close to the point where the only stuff to buy will be a lot of crapola, not that Archie was a central bank watcher.

The ECB will be issuing new forecasts in September and with the euro’s rise, they’ll reflect a fall in projected 2018 inflation, for starters.

Eurobits....

--A coordinated terror attack, possibly the work of ISIS, who claimed responsibility, killed 13 people in Barcelona and 1 person in the nearby Seaside resort of Cambrils.  Five terrorists wearing fake suicide belts rammed civilians with a car in the latter, hours after a rampaging van left 13 dead and over 100 wounded, many seriously, on the popular Las Ramblas boulevard of Barcelona.

An explosion in a house the day before was also linked to the terror cell, a probable bomb factory, that we don’t know as yet may or may not have led to the adoption of a Plan B by the terrorists.

Police later confirmed that one of the five killed in Cambrils was the driver of the van in Barcelona. At least four were arrested.

It seems the cell contained at least eight people and Spanish authorities believe they were looking to carry out an attack using butane gas canisters.  It seems others are on the run, as many as three more.

[A knife attack in the Finnish city of Turku today killed two and wounded 8, with a suspect shot in the leg.  One other may be on the loose, but as I go to post it hasn’t been confirmed this was a terrorist attack.  I’m guessing it was, given where the wounded suspect is from, a heavily migrant suburb of Turku.]

--On the Brexit front, the U.K. is preparing to give further details of its approach next week as it lays out positions on at least three key initial areas.

Critics in the U.K. and EU have complained the government wasn’t moving fast enough. It’s already been five months since the two-year process of Britain’s withdrawal was formally triggered, after all.

But Prime Minister Theresa May insists the talks with the EU thus far have been “positive and constructive.”

On Monday, the government will release two documents; one on how it will treat confidential EU information obtained before Brexit, and the other on how goods placed on supply chains in the EU single market before the U.K.’s departure can still be made available afterward.  While this doesn’t necessarily seem controversial, another position paper that could be published next week relating to civil and commercial contracts in force before the exit could be.

The U.K. is likely to oppose the EU’s proposal that the European Court of Justice would have the power to rule on breaches of final agreement and hand down financial penalties to the U.K. for non-compliance.  There is no way the U.K. will accept this, at least from earlier discussions on this key topic. Getting out of the Court of Justice’s clutches was a major reason for Brexit in the first place.

Earlier this week, Britain published its vision on post-Brexit customs arrangements, including a detailed position on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

It also is considering allowing European Union citizens to travel freely to the country even after Brexit; that is, free to visit, but working, studying or settling there would require them to secure permission. This is really about the Irish border.  Under one proposal advanced by the U.K., a customs border wouldn’t be needed between the two because each side would enforce the other’s customs rules, which would satisfy Ireland’s demand to maintain the current open border.  [Otherwise you’re talking border check points, which some say would lead to a return to the violence in Northern Ireland. Cross-border trade is worth $3.5 billion and disrupting it could have a devastating impact on both economies.]

The Office for National Statistics reported on Wednesday that there were a record 2.37 million EU workers in Britain between April and June this year, up 126,000 from the same period in 2016.

The government of Prime Minister May wants to maintain something akin to membership in the bloc’s customs union for an interim period post-March 2019, the current deadline, so that it has time to line up trade deals with other countries.

But the EU said this week that Britain’s coming documents are all well and good, except it is focused on making progress on the issues of “separation,” including Britain’s financial obligations to the EU, as well as the protection of the rights of EU citizens living in the U.K., before it would enter into any discussion of trade or a transition period.

The deadline for the current round of discussions in which Britain must show some progress with the EU is October, with an EU summit in Brussels on Oct. 19, then another Dec. 14.

On the economic front, the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics reported that average weekly earnings, including bonuses, rose 2.1% in the second quarter, year-over-year, while inflation was steady in July at 2.6%.  Unemployment for Q2 was 4.4%, the lowest since 1975.

Retail sales slowed in the U.K. last month after a strong second quarter, 0.3% month-on-month, up just 1.8% compared with a year earlier, the slowest since November 2013.

And the number of overseas visits to the U.K. hit a record in June, as the weaker pound lured tourists. The 3.5m visits by overseas residents – the highest number for the month on record – was a 7% increase on June 2016.  Spending increased 2%.

--Unemployment in France fell to 9.5% in the second quarter, the lowest level in five years and welcome news for new president Emmanuel Macron.

--Germany’s big election is Sept. 24 and Friday, Turkish President Erdogan called on Turks in Germany to vote against major parties, saying Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s establishment were enemies of Turkey.  “Support those political parties who are not enemies of Turkey.”

Merkel in response said at a campaign event, “We will not tolerate any kind of interference.” Germany has voiced concern Erdogan is using the failed coup in his country as a pretext to quash dissent.

Hey, Barack Obama tried to influence the Brexit vote in Britain.  Just sayin’.

Turning to Asia....

In China, we had a slew of data for July, with retails sales up 10.4% year-over-year, down from June’s 11% pace, fixed-asset investment rose 8,.3% in the first seven months of the year, and industrial production increased 6.4% yoy (vs. 7.6% June), all less than expected.  [Data courtesy of the National Bureau of Statistics]

Passenger-car sales rose 4.3% last month year-over-year, up 2% the first seven months over  a year earlier, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

[Ford’s sales in China declined 7% in the first half of the year, while GM’s declined 2.5% over the same period.  GM’s did rise 6.3% yoy in July, but Ford’s dropped 7%.  Nissan’s rose 14% last month, Honda’s 12%, and Toyota’s 11%.]

On the housing front, average new home prices in China’s 70 major cities rose 0.4% in July from the previous month, slowing from June’s 0.7% growth as policymakers worked to cool an overheated market.  [National Bureau of Statistics]

Compared with a year ago, new home prices rose 9.7% last July, slowing from June’s 10.2% pace.

Prices in Beijing fell 0.1% in July, Shanghai stalled, and Shenzhen’s fell 0.2%.

Regulators have been taking steps to crack down on property speculation since late March

In Japan, the story was the GDP report for the second quarter and it came in far better than expected, a 4% annualized pace and the best pace since the first quarter of 2015, much to the satisfaction of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.  In the first quarter GDP rose 1.5% on an annualized basis, and we’re now at six straight quarters of growth, the best since 2005-06.

Private consumption, 2/3s of GDP, rose 0.9% over the previous quarter, the fastest pace in three years, while employee wages were up 0.7% Q2 over Q1, the best in a year.

Cap-ex rose 2.4% over Q1 (9.9% annualized), fastest since Q1 2014.  But exports fell 1.9% last quarter.

So is the Bank of Japan about to dismantle its massive stimulus program because of the growth figure?  No way...plus inflation remains very low, just 0.4% in June, while overall wages were down in June, 0.4%, year-over-year.

--Taiwan’s economy grew 2.1% in the second quarter, down from 2.7% in the previous one, but solid.  Exports grew 5% year on year as the global economy continued to recover, benefiting Taiwan’s electronics manufacturers in particular.

Street Bytes

--Stocks fell a second straight week, with the Dow Jones down 0.8% to 21674, while the S&P 500 lost 0.7% and Nasdaq 0.6%.  It’s the worst two-week stretch of the year.  Thursday’s market decline, including a 274-point drop in the Dow, was the worst in three months.

Hedge fund billionaire David Tepper said in an interview with CNBC, ‘I’m not saying stocks are screaming cheap, but you’re nowhere near an overheated market,” noting that comparisons to the 1999 rally were “ridiculous.”

“Because world growth will continue to be good, earnings will be better and stocks are relatively cheap to interest rates.”

I can’t disagree with this. I said the Dow and S&P 500 would rise 10%, Nasdaq 7% for 2017, and haven’t deviated one iota from this stance.  Global growth is indeed solid, as you see from the above data on Europe and Japan.

[The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow early indicator for third-quarter U.S. GDP is currently at 3.8%, but the history of this barometer is that it slides as the quarter progresses. We’ll have a pretty good handle in early September where we might end up.]

--U.S. Treasury Yields

6-mo. 1.11%  2-yr. 1.31%  10-yr. 2.19%  30-yr. 2.78%

Treasuries unchanged on the week.

--Charlottesville...the CEO reaction....

It started on Monday when Merck & Co.’s CEO Kenneth Frazier stepped down from a White House business group set up to advise President Trump.  Then Under Armour Inc.’s Kevin Plank and Intel Corp.’s Brian Krzanich were the first to follow.

Frazier, an African-American: “Our country’s strength stems from its diversity and the contributions made by men and women of different faiths, races, sexual orientations and political beliefs.

“America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal. As CEO of Merck, and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

Trump then tweeted immediately: “@Merck Pharma is a leader in higher & higher drug prices while at the same time taking jobs out of the U.S. Bring jobs back & LOWER PRICES!”

Plank said he was quitting because his athletic-wear company “engages in innovation and sports, not politics,” while Krzanich cited a “divided political climate” and declared, “The current environment must change, or else our nation will become a shadow of what it once was and what it still can and should be.”

Wednesday, when word hit the White House that two advisory groups of American business leaders had decided to disband following a conference call among CEOs (who had witnessed Trump’s performance the day before), and after the heads of 3M, Campbell Soup, Johnson & Johnson and United Technologies announced their resignations, Trump quickly front-ran the press release, saying it was he that disbanded the councils.

Trump tweeted: “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!”

Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon told employees in a letter: “As we watched the events and the response from President Trump over the weekend, we too felt that he missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook said he did not agree there was a “moral equivalence” between white supremacists and “those who oppose them.”  In an email to staff, Cook said: “I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights.

“Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.”

Apple announced it was donating $1 million each to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

Howard Schultz, former CEO and now executive chairman of Starbucks, in decrying the hatred displayed in Charlottesville, told employees, “I know we are better than this.”

“What we witnessed this past weekend is against every sense of what is right.  My fear is not only that this behavior is being given permission and license, but its conduct is being normalized to the point where people are no longer hiding their face.”

“The moral fiber, the values, and what we as a country have stood for is literally hanging in the abyss,” Schultz added.  “We are at a critical juncture in American history. That is not an exaggeration. We are at and facing a crucible in which our daily life is being challenged and being questioned about what is right and what is wrong.”

Editorial / Wall Street Journal

“Mr. Trump’s ego won’t allow him to concede error and he broods over criticism until he ends up hurting himself, as he showed again Tuesday by relitigating his response to the Charlottesville violence. This is how he has achieved a 34% approval rating, as even allies flee and his Presidency shrinks in on itself.”

--The renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement is not off to a good start. The Trump administration lectured Canada and Mexico on the failures of the current agreement at an opening news conference on Wednesday, but both of them said the current agreement is not tilted against the United States.

It is hoped that after a number of upcoming rounds of talks between the three parties, a new agreement will be reached by year end, which would be a very fast timetable, reflecting the fact both Mexico and the U.S. have national elections next year.

The United States is focused on trade deficits, but I agree with Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, who said, “Canada doesn’t view trade surpluses or deficits as a primary measure of whether trade works.”

--The Trump administration, faced with increasing pressure from Republicans in Congress, agreed Wednesday to continue paying insurance companies payments that are critical to keeping markets stable under ObamaCare.

For months, the administration flirted with cutting off the “cost-sharing reduction payments” as a way to cause the healthcare law to “implode,” as the president liked to say.

But there is no doubt this would have caused chaos in the insurance market. Trump has argued voters would blame Democrats for this, but that’s not what would be the case.  Republicans would get killed.

--Home Depot Inc. lifted its fiscal 2017 earnings and sales forecast after reporting higher-than-expected second-quarter results. The company now expects earnings-per-share growth of approximately 13%, and full-year sales growth of 5.3%, with same-store sales up 5.5%, which is terrific.

For the second quarter, net sales increased 6.2% to $28.11 billion, with comp store sales up 6.3% (6.6% in the U.S.).

--Wal-Mart reported second-quarter earnings and sales that topped the Street, aided by a boost in online transactions, up 60%. Last quarter, e-commerce sales climbed 63%.

At the same time, Wal-Mart’s comp store sales growth at its U.S. locations rose a 12th-consecutive quarter, up 1.7% ex-fuel, with traffic growth of 1.3%.

Revenue was $123.36 billion, up 2.1% and ahead of expectations.

But the shares slipped on the news because the stock has been on a solid run and some investors were expecting even more.

--Target Corp.’s efforts to cut prices and improve its digital operations showed signs of success in its latest quarterly report, as same-store sales rose 1.3%, driven by stronger-than-expected foot traffic. Digital sales increased 32% in the quarter, up from 16% growth in the same period last year.  [Overall revenue rose 1.6% to $16.43 billion, with second-quarter profit of $672 million, vs. $680m a year earlier.]

Target plans to double its number of small-format stores this year, and remodel more than 100 existing locations and expand a next-day delivery service for online orders.

The company is also renewing focus on its grocery business, which has seen declining sales, and Monday, Target said it had hired executives from Wal-Mart and General Mills to accelerate its strategy in this segment.  [Amazon’s deal to buy Whole Foods Market is forcing everyone in the grocery business to do the same.]

--President Trump tweeted on Wednesday: “Amazon is doing great damage to tax paying retailers. Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt – many jobs being lost!”

The president has repeatedly targeted Amazon.com, with CEO Jeff Bezos also owning the Washington Post, which has often been critical in its coverage of the White House.

--Shares in Dick’s Sporting Goods fell sharply after the company lowered its earnings and comp sales outlook.  The company said sales could decline in the low single digits or stay flat, when it had been calling for growth of 1% to 3%.

Same-store sales this past quarter rose just 0.1%, missing the retailer’s own estimates of growth between 2% to 3%.

--Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. reported a surge in revenues and profit, sending its shares to new highs on Thursday. The company said its fiscal first-quarter earnings nearly doubled from the year-earlier period to $2.2 billion, as sales rose 56%, to $7.4 billion, beating estimates.

Alibaba is soaring due to a wave of spending by China’s growing middle class, which now numbers about 130 million people, nearly all shopping online, with Alibaba capturing a large share of online retail activity.

[I still don’t trust the accounting for this company for a second.  But that’s me.]

--Shares of Cisco Systems Inc. fell after the networking company reported fiscal fourth-quarter revenue and adjusted earnings in line with expectations but predicted another drop in revenue in the next quarter. Cisco said it earned $2.4 billion, compared with $2.8 billion in the year-ago period.  Revenue fell 4% to $12.1 billion.

What hurt more was the company’s guidance that it expects fiscal first-quarter revenue to fall between 3% and 1% year-over-year.

The company is counting on a new product, Catalyst, to drive growth again, after revenue has fallen seven straight quarters.  But smaller competitors such as Juniper Networks and Arista Networks in the switching business that made Cisco what it is are growing at double-digits, which means Cisco is losing market share.

--Costco must pay Tiffany & Co. $19.4 million for selling knock-off rings without indicating the rings were not manufactured by Tiffany itself.

A judge ruled after a four-year trademark infringement suit, ordering the warehouse retailer to pay Tiffany damages.

Costco had been selling the rings for years with signs saying “Tiffany.” What a bunch of dirtballs. Costco said it was using the Tiffany name to designate a certain style. Right.

--The price of Bitcoin soared past $4,000 and last I looked today was $4,300, a gain of about 25% since Friday.  You are on your own on this one.

Foreign Affairs

Syria / Iraq / Iran: Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the Syrian government has increased the size of the territory under its control by 2 ½ times in just two months.

Shoigu made the comments in an interview with state-owned TV channel Rossiya 24 on Sunday, adding that the fall of the ISIS stronghold of Deir el-Zour “will say a lot, if not everything, about the end of the battle with” the Islamic State group.

The coming collapse of ISIS is of course welcome, but the Assad regime retaking control is not, because this really means Iran is taking over.

Iraq hasn’t been much in the news, which you’d think is a good thing, but, as in Syria, Iran’s influence is growing there, too, while ISIS loses most of its remaining territory. Though the terrorists still have a bit of a base in mountain areas near the northern city of Baiji, where a suicide attacker killed seven Iraqi soldiers on Wednesday.

In Tehran, the Iranian parliament voted Sunday to increase funding for the country’s military forces and ballistic missile program, in the latest response to new sanctions leveled by the Trump administration.  The ballistic-missile program is to receive another $300+ million, while another $61 million goes toward nuclear development, a spokesman for parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee told state television.

The new sanctions target the ballistic missile program and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, whose Quds Force wing oversees Iran’s involvement in Iraq and Syria.

Iran sees the U.S. sanctions as violations of the landmark nuclear deal.  Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned of the possibility that Iran could drop out of the pact.

“If the Americans impose sanctions on Iran in violation of the [nuclear deal], the Iranian government...is obliged to take reciprocal action in nuclear and other affairs,” parliament speaker Ali Larijani said, according to IRNA.

The nuke deal, you’ll recall, omitted any mention of the ballistic missile program.

Separately, an Israeli television report on Tuesday said Iran is building a facility in northwest Syria to manufacture long-range rockets, showing satellite images it said were of the site under construction.

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran was strengthening its foothold in Syria.

“Our policy is clear: We vehemently oppose the military buildup by Iran and its proxies, primarily Hizbullah, in Syria and we will do whatever it takes to protect Israel’s security.”

Last Sunday, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel against future military operations in Lebanon.  He said that “any Israeli unit that enters Lebanon will be defeated,” adding, “Israel’s goal in the [Second Lebanon War] was to crush Hizbullah, but since [the war], our strength only increased and the Israelis know it. When Israelis speak about the capacities of Hizbullah growing they recognize their defeat in the war.”

Afghanistan: Another American soldier was killed Wednesday, 20 U.S. and Afghan troops wounded, in a push against ISIS fighters.  10 U.S. troops have been killed here this year, according to the U.S. military; nearly 2,400 since the war began after 9/11.

President Trump is still weighing requests by his generals for more troops to help Afghan forces break a stalemate against the Taliban, and at the same time, prevent rival ISIS fighters from expanding here as their territory shrinks in Syria.  This is supposed to be a major topic of discussion at Camp David this weekend.

Knowing this internal debate continues, the Taliban issued a rare open letter to President Trump on Tuesday, saying that the situation in Afghanistan was “far worse than you realize,” and sending in more troops would be self-destructive.

The letter also criticized the Afghan government as “stooges,” “lying, corrupt  leaders” and “repulsive sellouts” who were providing Washington with “rosy pictures” of the military position.

Russia: Opposition leader Alexei Navalny isn’t afraid to stir things up and this week, he stated in a blog post titled “A Brilliant Father’s Golden Child” that the son of Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov is living well beyond his means; as in enjoying a luxurious lifestyle despite holding down temporary employment.

This is all part of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation and he has gone after many in the elite, including Prime Minister Medvedev.

Navalny said that Peskov’s son, Nikolai Choles, was “an example of how, in Russia, where 20 million people live beneath the poverty line and 70 percent can only dream of a salary of 45,000 rubles ($760), it is possible to have a wonderful life.  At the highest level. Without doing anything.”

Navalny once went after Dmitry Peskov for owning a $620,000 watch.

Navalny hopes to run for president next year, despite a criminal conviction that legally bars him from doing so.  I’d say his chances of this are slim and none.  [Moscow Times]

Venezuela: Vice President Pence, who has been touring South America the past week (Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama) said on Monday the United States would bring all its economic and diplomatic power to bear to see democracy restored in Venezuela, saying a failed state there threatens Americans.

“President Trump has made it very clear that we will not stand by while Venezuela collapses into dictatorship,” Pence told reporters in Cartagena, Colombia.

But the U.S. energy industry is concerned the administration would adopt an oil embargo against Venezuela, though you’d think former Exxon Mobil exec, Rex Tillerson, would understand this is not in anyone’s best interests.  U.S. oil companies accepted more than 270 million barrels worth of Venezuelan crude last year alone – enough to produce about 5 billion gallons of gasoline.  U.S. refineries process a third of all Venezuelan oil.

At the very least, an embargo on oil from there would cause a temporary spike in gas prices, but I believe it would hurt the Venezuelan people even more than they already are by the Maduro disaster.

Separately, CIA director Mike Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday” that Venezuela could become a “risk” to the U.S. if chaos continues to roil the country.

“The Cubans are there, the Russians are there, the Iranians, Hizbullah are there. This is something that has a risk of getting to a very, very bad place, so America needs to take this very seriously.”

I told you in this space well over ten years ago that Hizbullah was a major concern in South America, and Venezuela specifically.  Lots of sleeper cells...sleeping...waiting to be activated.

Kenya: At least 25 people were killed in violence during and after the disputed presidential election here, many killed in protests by police in opposition strongholds after President Uhuru Kenyatt’s victory last Friday.

The opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, is mounting a legal challenge to the result.

The official tally was 54% Kenyatta, 45% Odinga, and international observers felt the vote was fair.

Burkina Faso (between Mali and Ghana): Twenty people were killed in a terror attack in the center of the capital, probably the work of an al-Qaeda offshoot active in the Sahel region.  A similar jihadist attack on a nearby café in January last year killed 30.

Australia: I have read very little on the topic, but Australia has a real crisis in government over the eligibility of some members of parliament, which given the small margin that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is operating under, could spell the end of his government.

At least six MPs are to have their eligibility decided by the nation’s High Court over the issue of dual citizenship, which is prohibited if you want to be a politician in Australia.

One senator, Fiona Nash, for example, revealed she is a U.K. citizen by descent because of her Scottish-born father.

Dozens of MPs have been forced to issue statements about their citizenship status.  Ms. Nash is deputy leader of the National Party, which is the junior partner in Turnbull’s governing coalition.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is a New Zealand dual citizen.  Four others will have their eligibility tested, with the High Court having to interpret a section of the constitution.

Random Musings

--Presidential tracking polls....

Gallup: 37% approval rating for President Trump.
Rasmussen: 42% approval.

In a new Marist poll, President Trump’s approval rating hit its lowest level since he assumed the presidency, with 35% approving of his performance, 55% disapproving.

While he maintains his base, his approval among “strong Republicans” decreased from 91% in June to 79% in August.

60% of Americans also do not feel Trump is honest and trustworthy, compared to 37% who believe Trump.  [This should be 90-10.]

According to a Quinnipiac University poll out Thursday, 50 percent of respondents said they want to see Democrats win control of the House, compared with 40 percent who want the GOP to keep control of the chamber.

But 92 percent of Republicans back their party and 93 percent of Democrats support theirs.

The 10-point gap is actually an improvement from the 14-point lead the Democrats had on a generic ballot earlier in the month.

President Trump’s approval rating also rose to 39 percent after dipping to 33 percent in Quinnipiac’s last survey.

It appears about half of those responding to this survey, however, did so before last weekend’s events in Charlottesville and the president’s response.

--President Trump is heading to Arizona next week for a rally, which sets the stage for major fireworks with two of his most vocal GOP critics being Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake.

The rally is scheduled for Tuesday at the Phoenix Convention Center and the police chief has already said it will be all hands on deck.

This is not going to go well.  Trump is also expected to support Arizona Treasurer Jeff DeWitt as a primary challenger to Flake in 2018.

--In an interview with The American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon claims he wants to “crush” the far-right, calling them “losers” and “a collection of clowns.”

“Ethno-nationalism – it’s losers.  It’s a fringe element,” Bannon said during a phone call with Kuttner.

“I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more,” he added.  “These guys are a collection of clowns.”

Bannon also said: “The longer [Democrats] talk about identity politics, I got ‘em.  I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

Kuttner said Bannon called him and never once asked for his remarks to be off the record.  But the website Axios reports that Bannon later told associates he did not intend for the conversation to be turned into an “interview” for the left-wing publication.

Bannon told his White House colleagues that he called Kuttner to discuss his stance on China and other topics.

But many of Bannon’s rivals inside and outside the White House have been urging President Trump to fire him.

Speaking on China and trade, Bannon said, “We’re going to run the tables on these guys.  We’ve come to the conclusion that they’re in an economic war and they’re crushing us.”

On North Korea, Bannon said there was “no military solution” in place to deal with a possible nuclear strike.

“Forget it,” Bannon told Kuttner.  “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

Bannon emphasized the focus should be China.

“To me,” he said, “the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we’re five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover.”

One of Bannon’s targets, economic adviser Gary Cohn, was upset by the president’s remarks at the Tuesday news conference that was supposed to showcase their infrastructure plans.

But Cohn won’t resign, it seems, while he remains the central player on agenda items like tax reform, and Trump considers him to be the new chair of the Federal Reserve.

White House chief of staff John Kelly was also clearly frustrated, but he’s not going anywhere.

As for Congressional Republicans, former speaker Newt Gingrich told the Wall Street Journal, “(They) know they have to get some things done to get re-elected next year, even if they are unhappy or rattled by Trump.”

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week” last Sunday, Anthony Scaramucci was asked by host George Stephanopoulos about whether anyone in the White House is willing to go to the president and say, “Boy, you just made a real mistake there.”

Scaramucci: “I think people are probably reluctant to tell him the truth. Maybe Ivanka would do that....Maybe Jared would do that.

“But you also got this sort of Bannon-bart influence in there, which I think is a snag on the president. If the president really wants to execute that legislative agenda that I think is so promising for the American people, the lower-middle class people and the middle class people, then he has to move away from that sort of Bannon-bart nonsense.”

Stephanopoulos: “You have been tough on Steve Bannon, does he have to go?”

Scaramucci: “Well, I think the president knows what he’s going to do with Steve Bannon.”

Editorial / Wall Street Journal

“The men and women who have joined the Trump Administration aren’t doing so because it enhances their reputations. They have no illusions about Mr. Trump’s character flaws, or if they did, they don’t any more.  They are trying to serve their country.

“They know nearly 63 million Americans voted for Donald Trump, and that it does the country no good to root for a Presidency’s disintegration. They see a rare moment of united Republican government to move in a better direction on domestic policy. Or they want to correct the erosion of American power and influence that accelerated during the Obama years.

“But that task gets harder with every reckless Trumpian flight from normal presidential behavior.  Every person has to decide how long he or she can serve in good conscience. But we hope the best stay as long as they can for the good of the country.”

[As I go to post, it is unclear if the Bannon interview in American Prospect was the final straw for Trump, or if Bannon already submitted his resignation.]

--Karl Rove / Wall Street Journal...on how President Trump handled Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his “seemingly inconsequential remark” at a Rotary Club in northern Kentucky, that the president had shown “excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.”

Rove:

“Rather than ignoring Mr. McConnell’s observation...the president scorched him with a barrage of fiery tweets. Shortly thereafter Mr. Trump piled on at a news conference, publicly blaming Mr. McConnell for coming up one vote short on the Senate’s bill to repeal ObamaCare.

“If that wasn’t enough, Mr. Trump then came close to calling for the majority leader to step down. When asked by reporters whether he would like Mr. McConnell to resign, Mr. Trump implied that if the senator couldn’t pull off health-care reform, tax reform and an infrastructure bill – ‘a very easier one’ – he would revisit the question.

“Blaming others may be cathartic for Mr. Trump, but it weakens the presidency and inhibits his agenda.  Republicans responded to the president’s criticism with a flurry of statements in the Senate leader’s support.  Legislators never like it when a chief executive – even of their own party – presumes to dictate who presides in their chambers.

“If Mr. Trump continues to attack congressional Republicans, the GOP could lose its majorities in the House and Senate in 2018.

“That outcome might be welcomed by fringe elements in the party whose primary interest is defeating the co-called establishment rather than advancing sound policy. But it would be a tremendous defeat for Mr. Trump if Democrats captured majorities in Congress. His agenda would be obstructed and his judicial nominees stymied.  His administration would be buried in congressional subpoenas and stuck in front of ugly oversight hearings for two years. Then voters would blame him in 2020 for not getting things done. After all, he’s the president and is responsible for what happens on his watch.

“Mr. Trump’s success is tied to the ability of congressional Republicans to win major legislative victories on health care, tax reform, infrastructure and other issues. In turn, achieving those triumphs depends largely on the competence of Mr. Trump’s White House....

“Where are the speeches explaining the plan to replace ObamaCare and why it would be better? Where are the Oval Office addresses on why tax reform would produce better jobs and bigger paychecks?  Where are the choruses echoing the president’s arguments for an infrastructure bill? They are nowhere to be found....

“Missing also are the administration’s legislative proposals, such as the actual infrastructure bill....

“Furthermore, the president ought to lower expectations by telling Americans how lengthy and difficult the legislating process will be. He should explain that he’s more concerned about doing things right than doing them quickly. Voters will be pleasantly surprised when he delivers.

“The president must stop stepping on his own agenda as he did Tuesday... Having backed off from his initial controversial comments, he once again equated the white supremacists and neo-Nazis with the counterprotesters who consisted mostly of University of Virginia students and local residents. The former was almost exclusively a hate group, the latter not.

“Mr. Trump must recognize that success depends on his ability to lead congressional Republicans in delivering concrete solutions to problems facing the middle class.  Like all presidents before him, Mr. Trump will be judged by results.  He must focus on doing better in the coming months than he did in his first seven.”

--Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) will advance to the Senate primary runoff to fill the Alabama Senate seat left open by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Moore came in the consensus favorite, while Strange appears to have benefited in the final days from the endorsement of President Trump as he pulled ahead of Rep. Mo Brooks.

Moore and Strange move onto a Sept. 26 runoff before the general election.

--I wrote the following in this space just this past 5/27/17, but it bears repeating:

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu drew national attention with a speech he gave last Friday as the last of four Confederate monuments was being removed from his city.

Landrieu slammed the legacy of the Confederacy and said that while history should be remembered, it needn’t be revered.

“The Confederacy lost and we’re better for it,” he said.  Landrieu said he had passed the monuments in his youth and gave them no heed, but that musician Wynton Marsales and others opened his eyes to a new way of thinking.

I’ll just say this, as a Yankee who had Civil War art all over my old home, including photos of Lincoln, Lee, Grant, and Jackson, and today, in my place one-third the size, I still have Civil War art prominently featured, including works by Mort Kunstler and John Paul Strain.  I’ve been to the spot where Stonewall Jackson was shot by his own men at Chancellorsville, and the plantation where he died 8 days later.  I know enough that Jackson’s Valley Campaign was pure military genius, and was studied by countless generals after, including a famous German tank commander.

I make no political statements in featuring those I have over the years on my walls.  [Another room is all huge works featuring 60s rock artists.]  It’s just history.

But...I do understand why some want to erase it in the South.  I just hope there is balance.  For example, I hope they haven’t taken out the marker where Gen. J.E.B. Stuart was shot, another place I’ve been to.   If we get to that, we’ve gone too far.

8/19/17

Here’s what I would add to the above.  I can understand taking down statues if the location of them really is of no historical significance.  Like if someone put up a statue of Robert E. Lee in Florida in the 1920s, when a lot of these were going up, take it down.  It’s meaningless, except to racists.

But I’ll go bonkers if you start taking down Confederate statues at battlefields that are also national parks.  As for Gettysburg, which I’ve been to multiple times, I will personally go down to protest if I ever saw something happening there.  [Though admittedly, there are some spots on the battlefield where the large number of monuments is kind of stupid.]

Here’s what I do know to be the truth with the white supremacists.  95% of them have the brain of a turnip, and many of their parents had the same.  They haven’t traveled the world, they have no idea of their own American history except some broad, fictitious generalities about Bobby Lee and Stonewall.

I’ve written before of Gen. Robert E. Lee.  Remember, I went to Washington & Lee University about five years ago to see where he’s buried.  W&L is next to VMI, which is home to Gen. George C. Marshall’s museum.  The same trip I went back to Appomattox, one of the great spots for American history in our country, and one of our great history lessons of all time in how Gen. Ulysses S. Grant treated the Confederate troops and Gen. Robert E Lee.  I have a print* of the surrender at McLean House in my living room.

*My print is old and what’s cool is Gen. Custer is in it, yes, that Custer.  He fought in the last meaningful battle of the war before the surrender as the forces were heading in the direction of Appomattox.  So my last trip to the McLean House, I notice in the room of the surrender the same print I had, and that was there the last time I was at the site, but no Custer was in it! So I asked the Park Ranger there, ‘Where’s Custer?’  “Oh, we discovered through further research that he wasn’t actually there.”  Talk about ‘waiting 24 hours.’

About a mile outside Appomattox, there is a little spot with the graves of the last Confederate soldiers to be killed in the war (plus one Union body, identified later).  It’s history.   Those kids had moms and dads, worried sick they would come home.  They didn’t.  Imagine, the very last ones of the Civil War.  They were so close to surviving. 

Don’t dare do anything to that spot, and other precious places in America like it.

But what’s truly sickening is our youth is so ignorant of history, thanks in no small part to abysmal community standards when it comes to local boards of education and what our children are being taught, and the textbooks used.  Our kids are largely idiots. Oh, but they’re tech savvy!

These are the ones protesting...on both sides.  I’m old.  I’ll be lucky to be around another 15 years.  This country’s going to hell.  Good luck, younger folk.

Other opinion on the topic....

Jonathan S. Tobin / New York Post

“Public images of America’s past are quickly becoming the focus of revisionist history that some liberals believe requires us to tear down memorials to those associated with slavery, or, as in the case of TR [Ed. referring to a controversial statue of Teddy Roosevelt outside the front of the Museum of Natural History in New York], prone to say some things that would be judged politically incorrect in the 21st century.

“That iconic equestrian image of TR drew fire because protesters see the monument, in which the 26th president is flanked by an African-American and Native American, as an expression of white supremacy.

“Many on the left also damn Roosevelt as an imperialist, although without his efforts to establish America as a global power it is unlikely that the United States could have saved the world from the Nazis a generation later.

“Are revisionist radicals capable of enforcing a new standard that could lead to past presidents being evicted from our public squares?  Maybe.

“A generation ago, nobody would have thought Washington or Jefferson controversial.  Now it appears that even Mount Rushmore isn’t safe since among its quartet of greatest only Lincoln might be exempt from the iconoclasts....

“But, contrary to Trump’s assertion, it doesn’t have to be a simple choice of keep them all or tear them all down.

“While many of America’s Founding Fathers owned slaves, there’s a clear difference between their hypocrisy and those who sought to destroy the republic they created in order to safeguard slavery.

“While we honor Washington and Jefferson for their defense of freedom, symbols like the Confederate battle flag and many of the monuments to that lost cause are more about the defense of Jim Crow than the memory of the Civil War.

“Even among Confederate statuary there are distinctions to be made. Surely, memorials honoring fallen soldiers rather than the cause they served – such as the memorial in Durham, NC, that was torn down by a leftist mob this week – should be exempt.  The problem now is that if statues of figures like Lee are to become rallying points for violent hate groups, then there’s an argument to be made for relegating them to museums and out of public view.

“Yet we also have a duty to defend figures like Roosevelt from these depredations. In addition to being a great president and uniquely heroic figure, TR’s place in front of the museum on Central Park West is a tribute to his status as our nation’s greatest environmentalist and has nothing to do with contemporary notions about diversity.

“It’s possible and necessary for a rational society to make distinctions between monuments erected to bolster segregation and those that are genuine expressions of patriotism and America’s highest ideals.

“Those who lack the moral compass to tell the difference shouldn’t be making these kinds of decisions.”

--Tony Horwitz / Washington Post

“The Confederate undead have a way of rising, zombie-like, to haunt the American landscape. First as ghostly hooded Klansmen right after the Civil War, and now as battle-flag-waving hate groups, rallying round a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville. The last Billy Yank passed quietly in Minnesota in the 1950s, but the spirit of Johnny Reb refuses to let go.

“Even so, it appears we’re nearing the end of the Confederacy’s interminable after-life. The white nationalists in Charlottesville may not have known or cared much about Robert E. Lee.  But in using his statue as a pretext for bigotry and violence, while wrapped in the rebel flag, they’ve demonstrated, yet again, that the Lost Cause can’t be cleansed or cloaked as benign ‘Southern heritage.’

“In fact, racists in Charlottesville may have unwittingly given America a truer image of the Confederacy than the 150-year fiction of the Lost Cause. When Southern states seceded, they baldly stated their reasons, including Northern hostility to the ‘beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery,’ and the ‘undeniable truths’ that Africans ‘were rightly held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race.’ Or, as Confederate vice-president Alexander Stephens said of his new government: ‘Its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man.’

“Efforts to sanitize the Confederacy began soon after Lee’s surrender in 1865.  As white Southerners struggled to make sense of devastating loss, they forged a potent mythology that endures to this day. The Civil War wasn’t about slavery. Rather, the South seceded and fought to defend its sovereignty against Northern aggression and federal tyranny. Confederates made a sublime sacrifice, knowing they would be overwhelmed by the North’s manpower and industrial might. The war was inevitably lost, but the cause was right.

“White Southerners etched this faith on monuments to their many martyrs. ‘No nation rose so white and fair; None fell so pure of crime’ reads an inscription in Augusta, Ga. At the head of this blameless legion rode Lee, a marble avatar of Southern honor and allegiance to homeland.

“The Lost Cause, as this creed became known, was embroidered with nostalgic paeans to a plantation society of genteel masters, hoop-skirted belles and happy ‘servants.’ As wartime hatreds waned, and the nation turned to sectional reconciliation rather than racial justice, Northern whites bought into the South’s chivalric fictions.  In 1923, the Senate even authorized a statue in Washington ‘in memory of the faithful slave mammies of the South.’  It wasn’t built, but then came ‘Gone With the Wind,’ a novel and movie that infected millions with the romance of the antebellum South.

“This love affair soured in the Civil Rights era, when Southern politicians and the Ku Klux Klan brandished the rebel battle flag as a totem of segregation and white supremacy.  Civil War historians put new emphasis on the role of slavery, and beginning in the 1980s, African Americans led the first concerted push to remove Confederate symbols, particularly the rebel emblems atop Southern capitols....

“The heritage movement lost as many battles as it won, but managed like Lee in 1864, to bring about a grinding stalemate.  Until, that is, Dylann Roof murdered nine African Americans in a Charleston church in 2015, in hopes of sparking a race war.  He had posted pictures of himself at Confederate and slave sites and waving a rebel flag. Thereafter, South Carolina removed the flag from its capitol grounds, and cities and states across the South began debating the removal of other symbols.

“The white supremacists in Charlottesville appear to have finished the demolition work Roof began, by recharging the movement to take down symbols of the Confederacy....

“As the debate over Confederate memory continues, it may be worth heeding the words of Robert E. Lee himself: ‘I believe it to be the duty of every one to unite in the restoration of the country.  I think it wisest not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the example of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife.’”

Rich Lowry / New York Post

“Robert E. Lee wasn’t a Nazi, and surely would have had no sympathy for the white supremacist goons who made his statue a rallying point in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend.

“That doesn’t change the fact that his statue is now associated with a campaign of racist violence against the picturesque town where Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. The statue of Lee was already slated for removal by the city, but the Battle of Charlottesville should be an inflection point in the broader debate over Confederate statuary ongoing in Richmond, Va., and localities around the country.

“The monuments should go. Some of them should be simply trashed, others transmitted to museums, battlefields and cemeteries. The heroism and losses of Confederate soldiers should be commemorated, but not in everyday public spaces where the monuments are flash-points in poisonous racial contention, with white nationalists often mustering in their defense.

“Some discrimination is in order. There’s no reason to honor Jefferson Davis, the blessedly incompetent president of the Confederacy. New Orleans just sent a statue of him into storage. Good riddance....

“Robert E. Lee, on the other hand, is a more complicated case. He was no great friend of slavery. He wrote in a letter to his wife that ‘slavery as an institution, is a moral political evil in any Country’ (he added, shamefully, that it was good for blacks – ‘the painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race’).

“After the war, he accepted defeat and did his part to promote national healing.

“Yet, faced with a momentous choice at the start of the war, he decided he was a Virginia patriot rather than an American nationalist.  He told one of President Abraham Lincoln’s advisers, ‘I look upon secession as anarchy. If I owned the 4 million slaves in the South I would sacrifice them all to the Union; but how can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native state?’

“He betrayed the U.S. government and fought on the side devoted to preserving chattel slavery.

“That is a grievous political sin, although he obviously wasn’t the only one guilty of it. The Civil War was an American conflict, with Americans on both sides. An honorable soldier, Lee is an apt symbol for the Confederate rank and file whose sacrifices in the war’s charnel house shouldn’t be flushed down the memory hole.

“The Baltimore commission has called for moving a striking dual statue of Lee and Stonewall Jackson to the Chancellorsville, Va., battlefield where the two last met before Jackson’s death. This would be appropriate, and take a page from the Gettysburg battlefield.

“A statue of Lee commemorates Virginia’s losses and overlooks the field where Gen. George Pickett undertook his doomed charge. If you can’t honor Robert E. Lee there, you can’t honor him anywhere.

“For some on the left, that’s the right answer, but this unsparing attitude rejects the generosity of spirit of the two great heroes of the war, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.  Notably, Grant vehemently opposed trying Lee for treason.

“For supporters of the Confederate monuments, removing them from parks and avenues will be a blow against their heritage and historical memory. But the statues have often been part of an effort to whitewash the Confederacy. And it’s one thing for a statue to be merely a resting place for pigeons; it’s another for it to be a fighting cause for neo-Nazis.

“Lee himself opposed building Confederate monuments in the immediate aftermath of the war.  ‘I think it wiser,’ he said, ‘not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.’

“After Charlottesville, it’s time to revisit his advice.”

Editorial Washington Post

“Let’s be clear. No one is talking about ripping the country apart – unless it’s the president himself.  The tons of Confederate iconography installed long ago were put there as part of an ideological campaign whose goals were to glorify men and women who betrayed the United States in the cause of human slavery and to marginalize descendants of the enslaved. That is historical fact. To hail the ‘beauty’ of the statues is to ignore all that, possibly for short-term political advantage, which is what factional demagogues always seek – but not true national leaders.”

Peggy Noonan / Wall Street Journal

“Condi Rice said it well, before the current controversy. She did not agree with the impulse to tear down.  ‘Keep your history before you,’ she said.  Keep it in your line of sight.

“And once the tearing down starts, there’s no knowing where it will end.  On this the president is right. Once the local statues are purged the Tear-Downers will look to Statuary Hall, and the names of military bases, and then on the Founders, to the slave-holding Washington and Jefferson. Then, perhaps, to their words and ideas.  In what way will that help us?

“Edmund Burke famously said we have a duty to the past, the present and the future.  In the minds of the Tear-Downers only the present is important, and only their higher morality. But they are not the first ever to recognize the truth about slavery.  Hundreds of thousands of dead Union soldiers did it before them. There are statures of them, to.

“Here is a better way.  Leave what is, alone. Be a noble people who inspire – and build – more statues.  I’d like one that honors the families of the victims in the Charleston shooting.

“More statues, not fewer; more honor, not more debris. More debris is the last thing we need.”

According to a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll, 62 percent of Americans think the statues should stay, while just 27 percent believe they should be removed because they’re offensive to some people.

--Trump tweet, Thursday: “Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!” 

Where do I freakin’ begin.  As some of you by now know, this was one of Trump’s campaign ‘stories,’ about how Pershing in the Philippines once had soldiers dip 50 bullets in pigs’ blood, before lining up 50 terrorists (read Muslim...it being illegal for them to eat pork) and then shooting 49 of them and telling the 50th to spread the word, and there wasn’t any terror for “25 years” after, as he told his audiences, not the 35 he tweeted.

But the story has been debunked by every legitimate historian imaginable.

--Guam and World War II

I wrote the following about 11 years ago, after one of my many visits to Guam.  Americans should know the history of this flashpoint:

“To refresh your memory, Guam was an American territory at the time of the start of WW II, as part of the settlement of the Spanish-American War in 1898.  But before the ‘Big One,’ the U.S. decided that Guam was indefensible and only stationed a small contingent on the island. We’re talking literally, just a few guns.

“The day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Guam was also bombed by Japanese forces (as was Manila as part of their coordinated plan).  [Understand this is 12/8, not 12/7, because of the time change and the international dateline.]  By December 10, the Japanese had moved in and the minimal American garrison surrendered, all except six, it would seem, including George Tweed.

“Tweed was the sole survivor of those Americans who escaped into the jungle on 12/10.  From that day until shortly before the American liberation in July 1944, he was hidden, clothed, and fed by the sympathetic Chamorro (the native people of Guam).  Many of the Chamorro risked torture but they considered Tweed a symbol of the U.S., of hope and freedom, and a cause they were willing to die for.  [Tweed died just a few years ago, so the park ranger told me.]

“There was another hero in the search for Tweed, Father Jesus Baza Duenas, the spiritual leader of the church on Guam. Father Duenas openly defied Japanese authority as he was suspected of harboring Tweed.  Duenas and his nephew were horribly tortured and then beheaded just days before the American liberation of Guam.  They never uttered a word to their captors.

“[In general, as the Americans began to recover in the Pacific the Japanese held ‘mass executions’ of the Chamorro because of their concern they would aid Allied invasion forces.]

“The U.S. might have ignored Guam except it was U.S. territory and many Chamorro served in the naval forces.  So on July 21, 1944, bombing commenced and by August 12 Guam was recaptured.  Over 1,000 Marines lost their lives in this battle, with the Japanese losing over 10,000 (3,200 in one night).  [And as I mentioned in ‘Week in Review,’ a Japanese sergeant, Yokoi, survived in the jungle until 1972!  Pre-brown tree snakes, mind you.]

“Following are a few quotes from those who lived through these times, as I gleaned in the WW II museum on the island.

“ ‘I didn’t say I hate them. I forgive them for what they did to many of the peoples, but I want them to know that I won’t forget it.’ –Juan Perez, Chamorro resident.

“ ‘Looking at this place right now, how beautiful it is, how peaceful it is, it’s hard to envision that it was such a site of bloodshed, violence. And I guess the world is just that way.  We’ll always solve our problems by killing each other.  But, unfortunately, it’s always the wrong people being killed.” –First Lieut. Jack Eddy / 9th Marine Division Liberation Force, as he recollected in 1993.

“And a postscript from my trip to Guam last week.  On my tour of the island, my guide, Hope, spent a lot of time in the cathedral at the capital.

“The Japanese were guilty of unspeakable acts against humanity, but as Hope put it, none was worse than making the priests at this church climb up and take down the crosses.”

--The Navy relieved the two top officers and the senior enlisted sailor of a destroyer that collided with a freighter off the coast of Japan in June, killing seven sailors in one of the deadliest accidents in years.

About a dozen sailors overall face career-killing administrative actions as a result of the collision of the destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the merchant ship ACX Crystal.

Commander Bryce Benson, and Cmdr. Sean Babbitt, the first- and second-in-command, were fired because the Navy “lost trust and confidence in their ability to lead,” Adm. William F. Moran, the vice chief of naval operations, told reporters on Thursday.

--After President Trump’s response to Charlotte, the nation’s military service chiefs all responded with full-throated statements rejecting extremism and intolerance.  Some were alarmed.  Fred Kaplan wrote in Slate: “If we lived in a different sort of country, this could fairly be seen as the prelude to a military coup.”

But the U.S. military has long struggled with hate groups – especially white supremacists – in its ranks.

In the 1980s, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger ordered the military to crack down on the groups, and then in 1995, it was an Army veteran, Timothy McVeigh, who planted the bomb in Oklahoma City, killing 168.

So there is historical context behind the concerns of the service chiefs.  They would also all have memories of the ‘80s and ‘90s.

--Lastly, congratulations to Army Cadet Simone Askew, who is the first African-American woman to hold the highest student position at the United States Military Academy at West Point, a truly historic moment.

---

Pray for the men and women of our armed forces...and all the fallen.

God bless America.

---

Gold $1290...was going to close above $1300 for first time this year, then fell back on Bannon news.
Oil $48.73

Returns for the week 8/14-8/18

Dow Jones  -0.8%  [21674]
S&P 500  -0.7%  [2425]
S&P MidCap
Russell 2000  -1.2%
Nasdaq  -0.6%  [6216]

Returns for the period 1/1/17-8/18/17

Dow Jones  +9.7%
S&P 500  +8.3%
S&P MidCap  +1.9%
Russell 2000  +0.05%
Nasdaq  +15.5%

Bulls 50.5
Bears 18.1

Have a great week...at least try to.  Enjoy the eclipse!

Brian Trumbore