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Mid-Day Digest

Oct. 18, 2019


“History and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government.” —George Washington (1796)

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Spinning Mulvaney’s ‘Quid Pro Quo’

We’ve seen this movie before: Members of the Leftmedia are breathlessly asserting that they’ve finally uncovered the “smoking gun” that will prove President Donald Trump’s guilt. “Mulvaney brashly admits quid pro quo,” CNN’s headline blared. The rest of the Leftmedia dutifully declared that White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney had just undercut Trump’s denial of a quid pro quo with Ukraine. However, as with the story of the boy who cried wolf, few are taking the Leftmedia seriously, nor should they, as this is yet another instance of fake news.

So, what did Mulvaney actually say? During a press briefing on Thursday, Mulvaney explained that the foreign-aid package for Ukraine had been held up due to concerns over possible corruption. Mulvaney stated, “Did [Trump] also mention to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that’s it and that’s why we held up the money.”

Aha! Democrats were quick to assert. Rep. Adam Schiff vacuously claimed, “I think Mr. Mulvaney’s acknowledgment means that things have gone very, very bad to much, much worse.” However, such sentiments only appear to be the case in Schiff’s dream world.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Mulvaney’s statements actually comport with what Trump and the White House have been saying ever since the “whistleblower” complaint arose. As the New York Post observes, “All Mulvaney did was repeat yet again that Trump ‘was worried about corruption with that nation’ — and specifically say those worries extended to cooperation in ‘the look-back to what happened in 2016.’” When pressed by a reporter that withholding the aid package amounted to a quid pro quo, Mulvaney responded, “We do that all the time with foreign policy. … We were holding up aid [to] the Northern Triangle countries [Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador] … so that they would change their policies on immigration.”

And once again Mulvaney reiterated that the temporary withholding of military aid for Ukraine had nothing to do with Trump’s request that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky look into Joe Biden’s publicly admitted quid pro quo or Hunter Biden’s corrupt dealings in Ukraine.

The reality is that all U.S. presidents have engaged in foreign-policy deals that can be termed “quid pro quo,” as Mulvaney correctly asserts. The only question is whether Trump’s dealing with Ukraine was done solely and primarily for his own political benefit by seeking to take out a political opponent. And there is thus far no evidence supporting such a claim, irrespective of how loudly the Democrats and Leftmedia insist there is. In fact, if there were such damning evidence, Nancy Pelosi and company would have already voted on articles of impeachment. Instead, the fact that House Democrats are holding this not-yet-voted-on impeachment “inquiry” entirely behind closed doors demonstrates that they have nothing. It’s all a game of political smoke and mirrors, which the Leftmedia seeks to convince the American people is real.

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Talking Turkey With Trump

“President [Donald] Trump declared Thursday ‘a great day for civilization’ as Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced terms of a cease-fire agreement that would end violence between Turkey and Kurds in Syria, following a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara,” reports Fox News.

But, the Associated Press reports, “Fighting continued Friday in and around a northeast Syrian border town at the center of the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces, despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight.” Yet the ceasefire lasts for all of five days — long enough for the Kurds to evacuate “or else” — and there was only fighting because Trump allowed it in the first place.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-NeverTrump) declared Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds “a bloodstain on the annals of American history.” He accused Trump of caving to Turkey. “Are we so weak and inept diplomatically that Turkey forced the hand of the United States of America? Turkey!?”

Given how this has all played out so far, the on-its-face analysis is that Trump botched this one badly, just as Romney and countless others have said. But is that all there is to it?

There are a lot more U.S. troops moving around the Middle East than the relative handful Trump pulled from northeastern Syria. In fact, at the same time we were withdrawing those advisers, the Pentagon was moving 3,000 more American troops to Saudi Arabia. And we’ve increased our overall military presence in the Middle East by 14,000 troops since May.

So what’s going on?

 Well, Iran is the elephant in the room these days. With Trump’s withdrawal from Barack Obama’s foolish nuke deal followed by increased sanctions, Tehran is behaving as a cornered and wounded animal.

Why did Trump downplay the Saudis’ cold-blooded murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi? Because Saudi Arabia is a key piece on the Middle East chess board.

Why did Trump seemingly give a tyrant like Erdogan everything he wanted? Because Turkey is a (shaky) NATO ally and is currently home to dozens of American nuclear weapons, as well as U.S. military personnel at a couple of air bases. Trump has to prevent Ankara from going to Iran or Russia for any more help and alliance than it already is.

Why did Trump abandon the Kurds? Because brutal Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has clearly won that nation’s civil war, and the more he solidifies power — including now allying with the Kurds who were just a few years ago trying to oust him — “the less he’s going to need Russian or Iranian support,” argues Stephen Walt, a Harvard scholar.

In short, it’s not exactly like the Middle East has ever been a peaceful or America-friendly region. Trump’s tactics — and especially his appalling rhetoric — are as far from the status quo as you can get. Plenty of knowledgable and upright people disagree with his moves, but that doesn’t mean they’re impetuous or indefensible moves. At the same time, whatever Trump’s future chess moves are, we’re left to hope that they play out in a way that is beneficial to the U.S. And that’s not very clear at the moment.

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For more of today’s columns, visit Right Opinion.


SCHUMER THWARTED: Chuck Schumer’s bid to rebuke Trump over Syria fails in Senate (The Washington Times)

PERRY OUT: Energy Secretary Rick Perry to resign after Trump blamed him for Ukraine call (PJ Media)

FANNING THE FLAMES: White House announces G7 to be hosted at Trump resort amid conflict-of-interest allegations against Bidens (National Review)

BORDER WARS: Senate again fails to override Trump veto on border wall (The Washington Times)

FREE SPEECH: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he fears “erosion of truth” but defends allowing politicians to lie in ads (The Washington Post)

SNUBBING NEARLY HALF THE UNION: San Francisco blacklists 22 states over pro-life laws (National Review)

TARIFF FALLOUT: China’s GDP growth grinds to near 30-year low as tariffs hit production (Reuters)

BREXIT DOGFIGHT: Boris Johnson is in a race against time to sell the Brexit deal he has struck with the EU to MPs ahead of a Commons vote on Saturday (BBC News)

“ABSURD, IMMORAL, AND OFFENSIVE”: UN member states hand Venezuela’s brutal Maduro regime a seat on the Human Rights Council (

POLICY: What does Brexit Deal 2.0 look like? (American Enterprise Institute)

POLICY: Why Mexico is cooperating with us on immigration (National Review)

SATIRE: Congress votes to protect Syria’s border but not the U.S. border (Genesius Times)

For more of today’s editors’ choice headlines, visit In Our Sights.

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Erick Erickson: “Conventional wisdom is that impeachment helped Bill Clinton. But Clinton had time to prepare counterarguments to the Starr Report before the House of Representatives even took up the matter. He also got a 50-50 split in the Senate, not a majority against him. He was also not up for reelection. It affected him enough that Al Gore would not campaign with him in 2000, and it certainly cost Al Gore votes. To get any Republican support, however, the Democrats have to be grown-up. Having House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff as the face of their effort hurts them. Dragging out the process right now does make it look like a fishing expedition. Republicans in the Senate are worried about the process. Most of them would very much like to support Trump. Some of them, though, are starting to tire of him and just need an excuse. That should worry the White House.”


Insight: “The bigger the information media, the less courage and information they allow. Bigness means weakness.” —Eric Sevareid (1912-1992)

Food for thought: “If Barack Obama handed his foreign policy to an outside lawyer who bought conspiracy theories he’d heard on MSNBC talk shows and had his chief of staff go through parsing over what was or was not a quid pro quo and sent the next G-7 summit to a property he owned and had to send his Vice President to get the Turks to stop an invasion he let happen the GOP would be in histrionics right now demanding impeachment.” —Erick Erickson

For the record: “I’m honored to be considered [overrated] by Donald Trump because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress.” —former Defense Secretary James Mattis

Touché: “I earned my spurs on the battlefield; Donald Trump earned his spurs from the doctor.” —James Mattis

Braying jackass: “It is hard outside of the Third Reich to find another example in modern human history of a leader, of a modern democracy, saying that one people of one religion are inherently dangerous or disqualified or defective. And yet that’s what our president did. The same president who described Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, though they commit crimes at a far lower rate than anyone that is born in this country.” —Beto O'Rourke

Alpha jackass: “Don’t get too cocky traitor. They showed up for JFK too.” —actor Tom Arnold hinting at assassination of President Donald Trump

Non compos mentis: [Dianne Feinstein is] the reason we finally got the assault-weapons ban, eliminating magazines with multiple rounds.“ —Joe Biden

The BIG Lie: "I entered as one of the poorest men in Congress, left one of the poorest men in government, in Congress and as vice president. I made no money while I was in there other than my salary.” —Joe Biden

And last… “Venezuela on the UN Human Rights Council is like a murderer serving as his own jury. Disgusting.” —Liz Wheeler

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For more of today’s memes, visit the Memesters Union.



For more of today’s cartoons, visit the Cartoons archive.

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