Thursday, July 30, 2020

The End is Nearer


I'm in the odd position of being happy to say Jonah Goldberg is right: the reason DHS goons were sent to Portland in their camos and unmarked vehicles wasn't to protect federal property, as the administration claimed, or to rehearse a fascist takeover of the country after he loses the election, as some have said on the left, but just an effort to get some good video of Trump taking care of some "chaos in the streets" for use in campaign ads and the Republican convention.

That's demonstrated by the ease with which they've slipped away:

For days, as fireworks and tear gas erupted in the streets of Portland, Ore., during the deployment of federal tactical teams cracking down on raucous demonstrations, President Trump campaigned against protesters he described as “sick and deranged anarchists & agitators” who he said had threatened to leave Portland “burned and beaten to the ground.”

But even as the president was doubling down, Vice President Mike Pence and other senior administration officials were negotiating an agreement with Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, to begin withdrawing the federal tactical teams from Portland.

On Wednesday, Ms. Brown announced that the federal law enforcement agents guarding the federal courthouse in downtown Portland would begin withdrawing as early as Thursday. “We know where we are headed,” she said. “Complete withdrawal of federal troops from the city and the state.”

Federal officials confirmed an agreement but hedged on the timing, cautioning that a departure would depend on the success of the state’s promise to secure the area.

That last looks like a wary nod to the one unhappy camper, President Trump, who doesn't like people suggesting that he's ever quit anything—

—but it's pretty clear he did, or the courtiers did it for him, after realizing that Trump's mercenary force mowing down the Wall of Moms or the Wall of Vets was not going to be a good look.

There also seems to be some alteration in  the planned withdrawal of 12,000 US troops, about a third of the force, from Germany that Trump ordered in June without telling the Germans about it, because he hates Chancellor Merkel, or because he persists in believing Germany doesn't pay its "fees", as if NATO were a golf club membership
"Germany's delinquent. They haven't paid their fees, they haven't paid their NATO fees," Trump told Wednesday reporters outside the White House, even though no such "fees" exist for members of NATO. "Germany owes billions and billions of dollars to NATO. And why would we keep all of those troops there?"
forcing Defense Secretary Mike Esper to invent a different reason
The Pentagon chief cast the decision to cut U.S. forces in Germany as the result of a months-long review of American deployments in Europe aimed at bolstering defense [Sure, Jan].
"These changes will achieve the core principles of enhancing U.S. and NATO deterrence of Russia, strengthening NATO, reassuring allies and improving U.S. strategic flexibility," Esper said, even as he made clear that the repositioning of U.S. forces remains tentative. "I want to note that this plan is subject to and likely will change to some degree as it evolves over time."
Not so fast; literally, according to this morning's Security Brief from Foreign Policy, from my email:

While the Pentagon has rushed to begin plans to draw down troops from Germany at the president’s request, some U.S. service members stationed there are being told that these moves will take years to carry out, according to documents obtained by 

Some units that are moving back to the United States, including the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, based in Vilseck, Germany, have been told that the move will “likely take months to plan and years to execute.”
It's clear, in fact, that they're walking it, very, very, very slowly, back.

Now he's saying in a pinned tweet that he'd like to delay the election

but without saying how he plans to take over functions that have been entirely outside the control of the executive branch for 233 years. This is because, as usual, he really has no idea how these things are arranged or who takes care of them. (At top is the video documentation by Access Hollywood of what seems to have been Trump's first attempt, at the age of 58, to vote, shepherded by Mr. Billy Bush, in the 2004 election—he plainly didn't know that you are supposed to register first.) 

How exactly does he go about delaying elections? By issuing tweets announcing that elections have been postponed? By convincing Barr and the OLC to put together a case for postponing elections and try to convince Congress to implement it? I suppose so, but the chances that Congress would comply are nil. 

Steve asks,
And are we sure the Republicans won't just violate the law with impunity?
And Mike Pompeo, that grinning grease-faced fool, suggests that they will, but mainly reveals he hasn't read the Constitution in a long long time: 

Because where's the mechanism with which they'll do it?

And a founder of The Federalist Society, Trump voter and impeachment opponent, Steven Calabresi, has turned up calling the idea "fascistic"—
“Until recently, I had taken as political hyperbole the Democrats’ assertion that President Trump is a fascist,” he said. “But this latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate.”
But the main thing for me is, who does it? Barr writes a letter to 50 state secretaries of state and orders them to put the election on hold? Rapid Deployment Teams from DHS fan out to 3000-plus counties to bar the doors of the precincts?

One thing that seems certain to me: he really doesn't have the troops. He doesn't have the troops to do anything more than a demonstration of their impotence like Portland. He has the DHS's Protecting American Communities Task Force (PACT) created by Acting Secretary Chad Wolf on 1 July (with no advice in the official statement as to who's in it to safeguard "our nation’s historic monuments, memorials, statues, and federal facilities" and which can deploy Rapid Deployment Teams (RDT), with no advice to signal who's in them either, but apparently "made up of personnel from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard, and Customs and Border Protection", and maybe the US Marshals Service. My guess is that it doesn't really exist. Wolf and his trusty SOPDDSHS Cuccinelli may be able to requisition a few dozen guys to occupy a couple of blocks in Portland to rescue the federal courthouse from being "burned and beaten to the ground", but they can't put the nation under martial law. That thing is just a complete fraud (nasty as it may have been for the victims in Portland itself).

More generally, it seems to me that the real ongoing story is the dwindling of Trump's power as everybody inside and outside the administration loses belief in it, hidden, particularly hidden from him, by all these projects, from the Space Force (an inexpensive reshuffling of ongoing projects to make it look like a real thing) to the Durham investigation of the origins of the FBI's Crossfire Hurricane, last in a series of desperate attempts in the inspectorate and DOJ and Senate committees to make it look as if McCabe and Mr. Mueller did something cripplingly wrong in investigating the Trump campaign's Russia connections, while Trump sits in his bed praising pizzeria owners for saying nice things about him.

The end—I realize I've said this before, but not that long ago—is near.

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