Will War Cancel Trump’s Triumphs?

Will War Cancel Trump's Triumphs?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Asked what he did during the French Revolution, Abbe Sieyes replied, “I survived.”

Donald Trump can make the same boast.

No other political figure has so dominated our discourse. And none, not Joe McCarthy in his heyday in the early ’50s, nor Richard Nixon in Watergate, received such intensive and intemperate coverage and commentary as has our 45th president.

Whatever one may think of Trump, he is a leader and a fighter, not a quitter. How many politicians could have sustained the beatings Trump has taken, and remained as cocky and confident?

And looking back on what may fairly be called The Year of Trump, his achievements have surprised even some of his enemies.

With the U.S. military given a freer hand by Trump, a U.S.-led coalition helped expel ISIS from its twin capitals of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, driving it back into a desert enclave on the Iraq-Syria border. The caliphate is dead, and the caliph nowhere to be found.

The economy, with the boot of Barack Obama off its neck, has been growing at 3 percent. The stock market has soared to record highs. Unemployment is down to 4 percent. And Trump and Congress just passed the largest tax cut since Ronald Reagan.

With deregulation, which conservative Republicans preached to deaf ears in the Bush I and Bush II eras, Trump and those he has put into positions of power have exceeded expectations.

Pipelines Obama blocked have been approved. Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge has been opened to exploratory drilling. We have exited a Paris climate accord that favored China over the U.S.

Though Beijing’s trade surplus with us is returning to record highs, a spirit of “America First” economic nationalism is pervasive among U.S. trade negotiators,

The one justice named to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, appears in the Antonin Scalia tradition. And under Chairman Chuck Grassley, the Senate judiciary committee is moving conservatives and strict constructionists onto U.S. appellate and district courts.

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Politically, however, the year brought bad news, with portents of worse to come. In November, the Republican Party was thrashed in Virginia, losing all state offices, and then lost a Senate seat in Alabama.

Given polls showing Trump under water and the GOP running 10 points behind the Democratic Party in favorability, there is a possibility the GOP could lose the House in 2018.

And though Democrats have three times as many seats at risk in 2018, the GOP losing the Senate is not beyond the realm of possibility.

Should that happen, the conservative dream of a recapture of the U.S. Supreme Court could swiftly vanish.

Recall: Democratic Senates turned down two Nixon nominees and Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork, forcing both presidents to name justices who evolved into moderates and liberals on the high court.

But it is in the realm of foreign policy where the real perils seem to lie. President Trump has been persuaded by his national security team to send Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, for use against the tanks and armor of pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Should Petro Poroshenko’s Kiev regime reignite the war in his breakaway provinces bordering Russia, Vladimir Putin is less likely to let him crush the rebels than to intervene with superior forces and rout the Ukrainian army.

Trump’s choice then? Accept defeat and humiliation for our “ally” — or escalate and widen the conflict with Russia.

Putin’s interest in the Donbass, a part of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union for centuries, is obvious.

What, exactly, is ours — to justify a showdown with Moscow?

In this city there is also a powerful propaganda push to have this country tear up the nuclear deal John Kerry negotiated with Iran, and confront the Iranians in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Persian Gulf.

But how much backing would Trump have for another U.S. war in that blood-soaked region, after Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria?

Who would stand with us, and for how long?

When Trump declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel and pledged to move our embassy there, we had to veto a unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution condemning us. Then the General Assembly denounced the U.S. in a resolution supported by all our key NATO allies, Russia and China, and every Arab and Muslim nation.

A day later, Trump complained on Twitter that we have “foolishly spent $7 trillion in the Middle East.”

What then would justify a new $1 or $2 trillion war with the largest nation on the Persian Gulf, which could send oil to $200 a barrel and sink the global economy?

Cui bono? For whose benefit all these wars?

The Korean War finished Truman. Vietnam finished LBJ. Reagan said putting Marines into Lebanon was his worst mistake. Iraq cost Bush II both houses of Congress and his party the presidency in 2008.

Should Trump become a war president, he’ll likely become a one-term president.

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Republicans Bet the Farm

By Patrick J. Buchanan

President Trump, every Republican senator, and the GOP majority in Speaker Paul Ryan’s House just put the future of their party on the line.

By enacting the largest tax cut since the Reagan administration, the heart of which is cutting the corporate rate from 35 to 21 percent, Republicans have boldly bet the farm.

They have rewritten America’s tax code to reflect their belief that cutting taxes on the private sector will produce the prosperity they have promised. If it happens, the GOP will reap the rewards, if not by 2018, then in 2020.

Democrats, as the Party of Government, egalitarian and neo-socialist, have come to see their role as redistributing wealth from those who have too much — to those who have too little. For, as men (and women) are born unequal in ambition, ability, talent, energy, personality and drive, free markets must inevitably produce an inequality of results.

The mission of Democrats is to reduce those inequalities. And as the very rich are also the very few, in a one-man, one-vote democracy the Democratic Party will always have a following.

Winston Churchill called this the philosophy of failure and the gospel of envy.

Republicans see themselves as the party of free enterprise, of the private not the public sector. They believe that alleviating the burden of regulation and taxation on business will unleash that sector, growing the economy and producing broader prosperity.

By how they voted Wednesday, Republicans yet believe in “supply-side” economics. In the early ’80s, this was derided as “voodoo economics” and “trickle-down” economics, and pungently disparaged by John Kenneth Galbraith as an economic philosophy rooted in the belief that, if you wish to feed the sparrows, you must first feed the horses.

The problem for Democrats is that Reaganomics worked, and is seen historically to have been successful. In 1984, growth was near 6 percent and Reagan rode to a 49-state landslide over Fritz Mondale who, at his San Francisco convention, had declared he would raise taxes.

Thus the importance of what happened Tuesday and Wednesday on Capitol Hill should not be underestimated.

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On their legislative agenda, Republicans broke out of a slump. Though they got not a single Democratic vote in either chamber, they showed they can govern alone. On the lead item on the GOP-Trump agenda — taxes — they delivered. They shifted policy dramatically toward Republican philosophy. They wagered their future on their convictions. And the splenetic rage among Democrat elites suggests that they know they have suffered a defeat difficult to reverse.

Moreover, though the bill that came out of Congress is unpopular, the nation will not vote on Trumpian management of the economy until November 2018, after the early returns from the tax cut have come in.

And the Democratic Party has also been put into a tight box.

As Democrats have denounced the tax bill for exploding the debt by $1.5 trillion, how do they propose to pay for all the free stuff, including free tuition and infrastructure, that they will have on offer?

There are only two options: borrowing and growing the national debt themselves or raising taxes, as Mondale promised to do.

Another problem for Democrats is the new $10,000 limit on the tax deduction for state and local income and property taxes.

In blue states like Oregon, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, Hawaii, the top state income tax rate is 8 to 10 percent. In Jerry Brown’s California and Andrew Cuomo’s New York, it hits 13 percent — before adding property taxes on homes and condos in Manhattan and second homes out on Long Island.

Virtually eliminating state and local tax deductions is going to cause some of the rich to consider relocating to low-tax or no-tax red states in the Sun Belt like Florida. And it is going to put pressure on blue state pols to cease adding to the state and local tax burdens that Uncle Sam is no longer helping to carry.

Stepping back from all the Sturm und Drang of 2017, the Trump-Republican record of achievement, of meeting commitments made in the campaign of 2017, is not unimpressive.

The largest tax cuts in decades. Elevation of Neil Gorsuch to the Antonin Scalia seat on the Supreme Court. A record number of new U.S. appellate court judges approved by the Senate. The U.S. is out of the Paris climate accord and out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

NAFTA is being renegotiated. Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will be open for drilling. The U.S. is at full employment, with minority unemployment near record lows. The stock market has consistently broken records, with the Dow having added 5,000 points. The Obamacare individual mandate tax is gone. Obama-era regulations have been cut and some eliminated.

And one year deeper into Russiagate, and still there is no proven collusion between candidate Trump and the Russians.

Indeed, the Robert Mueller investigators appear now to be coming under as much scrutiny and suspicion for how they behaved during the election and transition as Vladimir Putin and the Russians.

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The Oil Weapon in America’s Hands

The Oil Weapon in America's Hands

By Patrick J. Buchanan

In July of 1941, after Japan occupied French Indochina, the Roosevelt administration froze Japan’s assets in the United States.

Denied hard cash, Japan could not buy the U.S. oil upon which the empire depended for survival. Seeing the Dutch East Indies as her only other source, Japan prepared to invade.

But first she had to eliminate the sole strategic threat to her occupation of the East Indies — the U.S. battle fleet at Pearl Harbor.

FDR’s cutoff of oil to Japan was thus a primary cause of WWII in the Pacific, which led to hundreds of thousands of U.S. war dead, the destruction of Japan, Mao’s triumph in China and a U.S. war in Korea.

A second stunning use of the oil weapon came in 1973. Arab members of OPEC imposed an embargo in retaliation for Nixon’s rescue of Israel with an airlift in the Yom Kippur war. Long gas lines helped to bring Nixon down.

Now the oil weapon appears to be back in America’s hand.

Due to the substitution of natural gas for oil in heating homes and buildings, horizontal drilling, and hydraulic fracking, which enables us to bring oil and gas out of shale rock in places like North Dakota, U.S. production has exploded. We now produce more oil than Saudi Arabia and the benefits are not only economic, but geostrategic.

Cuba excepted, there is no more hostile regime in Latin America than Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, the successor to Hugo Chavez. Oil accounts for 95 percent of his nation’s exports. Iran is almost wholly dependent upon oil sales for hard currency. Russia is the oil and gas supplier for much of Europe.

With the price of oil having fallen from over $100 a barrel to below $80 this week, all three nations are suffering plunges in revenue. The United States and Europe are also punishing Russia and Iran with sanctions on their energy sectors.

Iran’s production has fallen sharply. Oil-drilling equipment and the latest U.S. drilling technology that Russia has sought to bring on stream its vast Arctic reserves are being denied to her.

As the oil weapon was used by us against Imperial Japan and by the Saudis against us, we are now wielding this sword.

We should remember that it is double-edged.

While it would seem natural for Saudi Arabia, the largest producer in OPEC, to cut production to tighten the oil market and let prices firm up and rise, the Saudis have continued to pump as the price has fallen.

What is Riyadh’s game?

Is the Saudi strategy to let prices fall to where it is no longer profitable for Americans to begin new fracking? Are the Saudis thinking of doing to the new oil-producing champion, USA, what we are doing to Venezuela, Russia and Iran?

Riyadh may want to let the price of oil sink below where it makes sense for energy companies to prospect for new sources of oil or invest more billions in expanding production.

Are the Saudis out to cripple us with an oil glut?

Today, not only are Iran and Iraq producing below potential, so, too, is Libya. And we have been bombing ISIS’ oil facilities in Syria.

A contrarian’s question: Would we not be better off if these countries not only restored oil production, but also expanded production and put more oil on the market than they do today?

Demand creates supply, and a world oil market where there is more supply than demand would seem to be to America’s benefit. For we remain the world’s largest consumer of petroleum products.

And surely it is to our benefit to enlarge both the reserves and production of oil and gas in North America.

Price pays a huge role in creating, and shrinking, supply. And price, Adam Smith notwithstanding, is something we can control and manipulate, even as China manipulates its currency.

In “America’s New Oil Weapon” in National Review, Arthur Herman of the Hudson Institute urges the United States to take bold steps to increase our supplies of oil and gas.

We should relax the rules on drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which has 10 billion barrels of oil locked up. We should use as an economic weapon against OPEC the 700 million barrels in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. We should allow the export of oil from the United States to enable us to cope with OPEC cutbacks. We should build the Keystone XL pipeline, and the other oil and gas pipelines between us and Canada now sitting in limbo.

What Herman is urging upon us is a new nationalism, a new way of thinking about international economics that puts the U.S. and its allies first, and uses our economic leverage to advance national rather than global interests.

Something the GOP Congress might think about when Barack Obama asks them to surrender their right to amend trade treaties with fast track.