Some significant developments that are not part of the Mueller report:
On Thursday, Trump gave Bibi Netanyahu a big present:
On Thursday, President Trump tweeted his intention to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory that Israel annexed from Syria in the wake of the 1967 war. For decades the United States, along with the entire international community, has refused to recognize Israel’s annexation, instead treating the Golan Heights as temporarily occupied territory.
While commentary has largely focused on the effects Trump’s announcement will have in the Middle East, this shift in U.S. policy has global implications, as well. Trump’s position on the Golan Heights is inconsistent with what scholars call the territorial integrity norm, the principle that denounces territorial conquest as a legitimate instrument of international politics. Trump’s announcement is likely to weaken the norm of territorial integrity, and in the process, undercut the U.S. ability to deter and punish states that engage in territorial expansion.
Juan Cole puts it in starker terms. Please read his entire post; this is just a snip:
Trump’s call for recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, a part of Syria, is intended to help his and his donors’ ally Binyamin Netanyahu win the Israeli elections.
It is another example of his uncanny ability to sabotage his own policies.
Not to mention to sabotage any semblance of international legality. …
…Russian President Vladimir Putin is delighted at Trump’s move, since it cuts off at the knees US objections to the Russian annexation of Crimea from the Ukraine (and at least Russia had Crimea until 1954; Israel never had the Golan).
Moreover, it has implications for Russia’s return as a Middle East power.
The Syrian regime is already grateful to Putin’s Russia for its military intervention to defeat the rebels. Now, Damascus will view its close relationship with Moscow as the only hope of recovering lost territory. No state is willing to lose territory, and a weak Syria knows it cannot fight this development alone.
Juan Cole goes on to explain that the move has royally pissed off Turkey and is likely to drive other nations in the region to ally themselves with Iran. Way to go. See also Michael McGough, The Golan Heights switch is typical Trump, in the Los Angeles Times.
But thoroughly gumming up the Middle East was just a warmup. Then Trump announced a new appointment to the Federal Reserve Board — Stephen Moore.
Now our reality-TV president is set to nominate Stephen Moore, a right-wing crackpot who has been playing a TV economist for decades, for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board.
I use the phrase “right-wing crackpot” after careful consideration of possible alternatives, recognizing that it’s generally not a good idea to criticize the motives or intelligence of those with whom you disagree. Unfortunately, “famous idiot” was already taken by New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, who for two decades has been chronicling Moore’s unbroken string of false statements and failed predictions. I also might have gone with “charlatan and crank,” but New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, a real economist with a Nobel Prize, beat me to it.
During the 2008 financial crisis, Moore and I were in regular disagreement while appearing on a CNBC show hosted by another TV economist, Larry Kudlow, now President Trump’s top economic policy adviser. Back then, Moore was blaming the government rather than Wall Street for the market crash and warning that the heavy dose of fiscal and monetary stimulus then proposed by the Obama administration and the Fed would result in hyperinflation and a collapse of the dollar. …
…The central features of Moore’s economic way of thinking? A stubborn refusal to learn from historical experience, embrace economic consensus or accept the world as it is rather than as he would like it to be. He led the charge in predicting that the Clinton and Obama tax increases would fail to raise additional revenue and drive the economy into recession. He turned out to be wrong on both counts.
The only way Moore is able to continue peddling his supply-side nonsense is to simply make stuff up, hoping nobody will notice. A few years back, Miriam Pepper, the editorial-page editor of the Kansas City Star, caught him lying red-handed in an op-ed she had published. She banned him from ever appearing on her pages again. Indeed, outside the alternate-reality bubbles of Fox News, the Heritage Foundation, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and the Trump White House, Moore has no credibility, even as a TV economist.
Here’s a blog post by Paul Krugman from 2015 that’s just too deliciously snarky not to quote:
But there’s another aspect of the story, which is Moore himself: this is a guy who has a troubled relationship with facts. I don’t mean that he’s a slick dissembler; I mean that he seems more or less unable to publish an article without filling it with howlers — true, all erring in the direction he wants — in a way that ends up doing his cause a disservice. For example, his attempt to refute something I wrote about Kansas ended up being mainly a story about why Stephen can’t count, which presumably wasn’t his intention.
But here’s the mystery: evidently Moore has had a successful career. Why?
Think about Heritage: It’s immensely wealthy, and could surely afford to hire a technically competent right-wing hack. The Wall Street Journal, similarly, could have attracted someone much less likely to trip over his own intellectual shoelaces. Again, the problem isn’t even that Moore got the macroeconomics of recent years all wrong, although he did; it’s the inability to write without making embarrassing mistakes.
See also Krugman’s 2016 post on Larry Kudlow and Stephen Moore, titled “Send in the Clowns.”
Yesterday Trump tweeted a cancellation of some new economic sanctions against North Korea:
It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea. I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2019
The tweet caused much confusion, because Treasury hasn’t announced any additional sanctions yesterday. It had announced some sanctions on Thursday, but what the Tweetster was talking about, it turns out, were some sanctions that hadn’t been announced yet.
Trump was referring to a future round of previously unknown sanctions scheduled for the coming days, said administration officials familiar with the matter. The officials declined to specify what those sanctions would entail.
The move to forestall future sanctions represents an attempt by the president to salvage his nuclear negotiations with North Korea in the face of efforts by national security adviser John Bolton and others to increase punitive economic measures against the regime of Kim Jong Un.
The confusion created by policy differences inside the administration was compounded by the president’s imprecise tweet.
When asked to explain the tweet, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders simply noted that “President Trump likes Chairman Kim, and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary.”