Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Literary Corner: A Very Big and Important Area

When the emperor was talking in Biarritz about his plan to be the G7's official hôtelier for its next meeting, at his Doral Resort and Golf Club in Miami-Dade County, so that he can collect all the moneys his colleagues spend during their visit to the US, the wall he stood in front of bore an interesting motto, apparently installed by the organizers of the summit:

"Lutter contre les inégalités", "Struggle against the forms of inequality". This could  be the best trolling of the whole weekend and I would like to offer a hearty salute to whoever thought of it.

By the way, the Doral is really struggling against the forms of going broke, and could use the money,
At Doral, which Trump has listed in federal disclosures as his biggest moneymaker hotel, room rates, banquets, golf and overall revenue were all down since 2015. In two years, the resort’s net operating income – a key figure, representing the amount left over after expenses are paid – had fallen by 69%.
Even in a vigorous economy, the property was missing the Trump Organization’s internal business targets; for instance, the club expected to take in $85 million in revenue in 2017 but took in just $75 million.
And then Doral settled a lawsuit from a guest who claimed to have been bitten by bedbugs.

I'd been wondering a lot, as you can imagine, what kind of story Trump had in mind last week when he was explaining how the Group of Eight became the Group of Seven ("for most of the time it was the G8 and it included Russia"—which is not in fact true: it was the G5 in 1973, the G6 in 1975, and the G7 (with Canada) from 1976 until 1998, when Russia was invited to formally make it the G8, which it remained until Russia's expulsion after the illegal Ukraine invasion and land seizure of 2014; thus it's been the G8 for just 16 of its 46 years) when President Putin "outsmarted" President Obama and a humiliated Obama decided unilaterally to throw Putin out of the club. Turned out, inevitably, that there wasn't any actual story:

by Donald J. Trump
I’m not blaming him, but
a lot of bad things happened
with President Putin and
President Obama. 
One of the things that happened
was, as you know, what happened
in—with a very big area,
a very, very big and important 
area in the Middle East
where the red line was drawn
and then President Obama
decided that he was not going 
to do anything about it.
If you can’t draw red
lines in the sand,
you just can’t do it.
And the other was Ukraine
having to do with a certain
section of Ukraine, that
you know very well,
where it was sort of taken away
from President Obama.
Not taken away from
President Trump, taken away
from President Obama.
President Obama was not
happy that this happened
because it was embarrassing
for him. Right? It was very
embarrassing for him, and
he wanted Russia to be out
of what was called the G8.
And that was his determination.
He was outsmarted by Putin.
He was outsmarted. President Putin
outsmarted President Obama—
wait a minute—and I
can understand how President
Obama would feel.
He wasn’t happy.
Except evidently for the story, first noticed by Robert Mackey of The Intercept, I think, that Trump doesn't know the names of Syria ("a very, very big and important area in the Middle East") or Crimea ("a certain section of Ukraine that you know very well").

And doesn't know the stories themselves, for that matter:

  • the perfectly well-known, though fundamentally false, story of Obama's failure of nerve in the standoff over Bashar al-Assad's deployment of sarin gas against Syrian rebels, crossing a "red line" Obama had drawn (Trump oddly puts it in the passive)—in reality, Obama had decided, correctly, that the Constitution required him to consult Congress before taking action, and Congress refused to take a vote; 
  • and Putin's seizure of Crimea, which certainly wasn't outsmarting anybody. (Hitler outsmarted the Allied powers by grabbing Poland even though he had promised not to do so; "Oh, for heaven's sake, Winston," said FDR, "you're just embarrassed." No, he didn't.) 
(Via Digby: "President Obama was pure and simply outsmarted. They took Crimea during his term. That was not a good thing. It could have been stopped, it could have been stopped with the right, whatever. It could have been stopped, but President Obama was unable to stop it, and it’s too bad." Ah, if only Obama had used the right whatever. That's totally what Trump would have done.)

I also object to the portmanteau of two perfectly serviceable metaphors "red line" and "line in the sand" into a single improbability (picture somebody with a bucket of red paint on the beach), but I'm pretty sure that's not original with Trump.

The most alarming story from Biarritz is that lie about getting calls from China offering an imminent deal, which he must have known would be exposed more or less instantly
“I have not heard of this situation regarding the two calls that the U.S. mentioned in the weekend,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at press conference on Tuesday. He had denied on Monday that the calls had taken place.
“Regretfully, the U.S. has further increased the tax rate on China’s exports to the U.S. This extreme pressure is purely harmful to both sides and not constructive at all,” Geng said, according to a CNBC translation.
On Monday, Trump said at the G-7 summit in France that China in recent phone conversations expressed its desire for a deal. His comment renewed hopes for a resolution between the world’s two largest economies, pushing the market higher as the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained more than 250 points Monday.
(perhaps he was just meaning to talk up the stock market on Monday, come to think of it, with no thought for what would happen next). He seems to care less and less about getting caught.

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