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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

As Donald Trump transforms the presidency into a reality show, his former conservative allies are becoming his adversaries, and waking up to the sickening reality that the U.S. government is headed by a clown who could turn into one of history’s greatest war criminals in the four minutes it would take him to order a nuclear attack.

But will Trump’s critics do more than talk?

When Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the New York Times that the President’s behavior could set America “on the path to World War III,” Trump responded with a tweetstorm. Corker called the White House an “adult day care center” and the story quickly descended into politics as usual.

Here are the latest dispatches on our national emergency. The Times reports that Trump called Corker “Liddle Bob” because the senator is five feet, seven inches tall. The Hill says Republican strategists are concerned that Trump’s feud with Corker endangers the party’s plans to pass tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Trump “needs to stop. But I wish Bob would stop, too. Just stop,” Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa told Politico. “We’ve got so many other things that we need to be focusing on right now.”

As New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait writes, “Corker is so concerned that Donald Trump’s erratic behavior could lead to a war causing millions of deaths that he has spoken out about the issue publicly. Corker’s fellow Republicans are extremely upset. At Corker, not Trump.”

The question is not whether Republicans who privately share Corker’s concerns about will speak up—they won’t. As Heather Digby Parton and Maddow Blog note, they are “cowards” who have “learned the wrong lessons.”

The question is whether Corker is going to put his money where his mouth is. The world does not need another Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has pulled off the unimpressive trick of combining the personalities of Trump critic and Trump toady into one body.

Corker, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, actually has some power to check Trump’s antics over the next year and a half. Here is what he could and should do.

1. Hold hearings on North Korea.

The fact that our nuclear command and control system is in the hands of a man like Donald Trump is, in the words of author Eric Schlosser, “something out of science fiction.” Corker should hold hearings to educate the public about the dangerous situation we face.

There is a precedent. Fifty years ago, Sen. J. William Fulbright, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, held a series of nationally televised “educational” hearings on the Vietnam War, which helped galvanize public opinion against a criminally foolish war. Like Corker, Fulbright had to break with a president of his own party in order to serve his country.

The public and the Congress, distracted by hurricanes and mass murder, need to understand that the North Korea conflict has escalated in the past month. After Trump said any North Korean threats would be met with “fire and fury,” North Korea continued to issue threats, and Trump responded, not with fire and fury, but with insults (“Rocket Man”), perhaps giving Kim Jong-un the impression the president is bluffing.

At the same time, the military posture of both sides is getting more aggressive.

In September, the United States sent B1 bombers and F-15C Eagle fighter planes further north along the coast of North Korea than ever before. North Korea responding by asserting its right to shoot down U.S. warplanes. This week, U.S. and South Korean forces sought to demonstrate U.S. resolve by simulating attacks on North Korean targets.

What will Trump do if the North Koreans shoot down an American plane? Trump administration officials need to explain what they are doing and why—and in person, not in 140 characters.

2. Support legislation to curb Trump’s nuclear authority.

As Newsweek’s Jeff Stein notes, “No one can stop Trump from waging nuclear war, not even his generals.”

If Corker is serious about getting the country off the path to World War III, he should hold hearings on the bill introduced by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) to prohibit the president from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress.

“Neither President Trump, nor any other president, should be allowed to use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack,” Markey said, when he introduced the bill in January. “By restricting the first use of nuclear weapons, this legislation enshrines that simple principle into law.”

Markey’s bill is no panacea, but Corker’s willingness to consider it would put Trump on notice that Congress is serious about curbing his powers.

3. Protect the Iran nuclear agreement.

Now that Trump has declared he will abandon the international agreement that prevents the Islamic Republic from building nuclear weapons for at least a decade, Congress will have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose pre-2015 sanctions, or stick with the agreement. Republicans will be looking to Corker for guidance.

Corker should publicly support Trump administration officials who have repeatedly said the agreement advances U.S. interests and that Iran is compliance.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a former commander in the Middle East, told the Senate earlier this month that Iran was in compliance with the deal. Before that, General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told the Senate that the agreement was working, and is delaying any eventual Iranian development of nuclear arms.

Corker, a measured critic of the deal in 2015, is now uniquely well-positioned to enforce the point that abandoning the Iran deal will undermine any effort to negotiate with North Korea by demonstrating that the U.S. government doesn’t abide by its diplomatic commitments.

After a recent visit to North Korea, the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof declared, “I’ve been covering North Korea on and off since the 1980s, and this five-day trip has left me more alarmed than ever about the risks of a catastrophic confrontation.”

Corker has said he shares that alarm. Now is the time to do something about it before it’s too late.

Jefferson Morley is AlterNet’s Washington correspondent. He is the author of the forthcoming biography The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton (St. Martin’s Press, October 2017).

 

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20 responses to “3 Things Bob Corker Can Do To Check Trump”

  1. Dominick Vila says:

    The first question that Sen. Corker, and every responsible member of Congress should ask Trump is what is his end game? What are his objectives, besides destroying President Obama’s legacy? The second step involves demanding professional analysis to determine Trump’s mental stability. North Korea, and now the unnecessary crisis with Iran, can easily degenerate into open warfare, not only on two fronts simultaneously, but with the likely probability that other nations may step in to help the targets of Trump’s ire. Last, but not least, Congress should determine the reasons and logic of unconditionally helping Israel and Saudi Arabia, to the point of bringing the USA a step closer to war, and making us a pariah on the world stage. Our devotion to Israel is not new, and it is not surprising. Our willingness to do the dirty war, again (remember Iraq) on behalf of Saudi Arabia, the country most responsible for 9/11, is truly perplexing and sickening. The fact that Osama bin Laden was from Saudi Arabia, that the financiers of 9/11 were Saudi Wahhabi princes, and that 15 of the 19 terrorists that carried out the attack were Saudis, is widely known. With that in mind, why did W, and now Trump, offer our support to the country that inflicted the most pain on our nation? The fact that Saudi purchases of large amounts of U.S. Treasury bonds, and large investments in our stock market, are helping offset our deficits is no reason to ignore what they did to us and join the relatives and friends of the 9/11 terrorists in a sword dance. North Korea is a dangerous country, and effective diplomatic pressure, such as the one being exerted by China, is needed to influence real change in that country. Totally destroying that country, however, and risking losing one million lives on the first day of a unilateral attack, should not be an option. Certainly, not one to be contemplated by rational people.

    • FireBaron says:

      Dom, Here are what I think Teflon Donnie’s end game entails.
      1. Eliminate anything accomplished by President Obama. Why? Because a) he could not find proof that Obama was NOT born in the US; b) because President Obama told jokes about him at a Washington Press Corps Dinner; c) Because a Black man had the audacity to be elected President by a majority of Americans, while he only was elected by benefit of questionable voting practices in states predicted to go to Hillary.
      2. As his two GOP predecessors, he wants to have his own war. Where GHWB (aka Pappy Bush) was successful in his driving Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, Dubya was somewhat less successful in his efforts, being guided in these operations not by the Generals who actually knew what they were doing, but by a Vice-President looking to bulge up his benefits from his still questionable association with Haliburton, and a Secretary of Defense who did not believe ground troops were necessary to wage war, or secure the peace. As we are still involved in both Iraq and Afghanistan (both of which Citizen Teflon Donnie said we should have gotten out of) that leaves Venezuela, North Korea or Iran. Should he attempt to attack or invade North Korea, Seoul will be destroyed in a matter of minutes, and Russia and the PRC will be doing everything they can to prevent having to enter the war to support an ally they barely tolerate. Should he attempt anything against Iran, it could result in a retaliation by every other Islamic Nuclear armed state (that’s when we find out who really has what), as well as by Russia. Unlike North Korea, where we could find some support in going after Kim, the Iranian people would unite against the Foreign Invader, despite their personal feelings for the mullahs in Qu’um. So, what’s left? The failed state of Venezuela. I am sure that Tillerson, Perry and Mnuchin would be ecstatic to gain control of Venezuela’s oil and mining reserves, but this would require a greater rebuilding effort than Iraq! Considering the people involved are less prepared to do so than was Dubya’s team, this will become an even greater fiasco.
      3. Getting a rewrite of the Constitution, allowing him to remove from office any Congressman, Senator or Federal Judge or Justice for any reason. Given that Congress would have to approve anything like that, I don’t see it happening. And thanks to Madison v. Marbury, the Supreme Court would strike it down as soon as it passed.
      Teflon Donnie is only in it for whatever he can get out of the job. Right now he is flaunting the Emoluments Clause by effectively forcing foreign delegations visiting him to stay at his hotels or resorts. He has been using the White House staff to endorse his family’s product lines. And he has been proving himself to be a petulant five-year-old who was denied a toy whenever he doesn’t get his way.
      He insults the Democrats for not being on board with his agenda, and denounces any Republican for any hint of “personal disloyalty”, and wonders why he cannot get anything HE wants passed by Congress. Even Nixon, who was despised by Congress in general, knew you didn’t get things done by insulting the people who you expected to do them.
      I can only pray that Mike Pence finally discovers he did not have his backbone surgically removed, holds a meeting with the Cabinet and invokes the 25th Amendment, ridding us of this little baby pretending to wear his Daddy’s clothes and playing grownup.

      • Dominick Vila says:

        I agree. I would add Cuba to the list. Invading Venezuela to seize its huge natural resources, which in addition to petroleum also include large deposits of iron ore, bauxite, gold, and other minerals, would elicit a robust response by most of Latin America I lived in Venezuela from 1946 to 1958, when that country was ruled by right wing dictators, and U.S oil and mining companies realized huge profits. An important component of a decision to invade that country is the historical influence that Venezuela, the homeland of Bolivar and Sucre, has throughout South America and much of Central America. There are also some EU countries that would condemn such a move. A more likely scenario may involve assassinations and supporting a military coup, to return to the good ole days, and give Trump the geo-political victory he is looking for. North Korea and Iran are simply too messy, and as you pointed out, attacking either one may invite others to engage us militarily, a fact that would degenerate into WWIII. I doubt Donnie wants to go down in history as the architect and cause of global nuclear annihilation. Honestly, I don’t have any faith in Pence, Ryan, or McConnell. They all hate Trump, but they don’t have the backbone to remove him from office, and they fear the backlash they will get from Trump’s supporters if they attempt such thing. As perplexing as it may seem, one third of Americans remain loyal to Trump, and could care less how bizarre or dangerous his statements and actions are. For them, he is the last White Hope.

        • JPHALL says:

          Please people, remember how most “Great White Hopes” have turned out! They lost, usually big time.

          • ivory69690@yahoo.com says:

            Please people, remember how most “Great White Hopes” have turned out! They lost, usually big time.,,,
            JPHALL with the DUMPSTER DONNY IN THE HOUSE the fact is there is no hope . and DUMP 45 title should be THE NOT SO GREAT AT ALL HE’S THE WHITE DOPE

      • idamag says:

        Back when elected officials divested themselves of their business interests so they could not be accused of using the presidency or vice presidency to profit, their interests were held in a trust until they were no longer in office. That means cheney’s billions from halliburton were sitting there gaining interest. That means his starting a war and trying to get Iranian oil for halliburton and his awarding halliburton no bid contracts were acts of treason.

      • Don’t look to Pence to do anything useful. A religious fanaticism not unlike that which afflicts the equivalent rigid-minded Muslims has taken hold of Pence and many like him, rewiring their neurocircuitry, and obscuring the ability to be wise and exercise common sense without submitting to partisan loyalty.

  2. dbtheonly says:

    “nuclear command and control system is in the hands of a man like Donald
    Trump is, in the words of author Eric Schlosser, “something out of
    science fiction.”

    Say instead something out of Steven King. We wake up one day in a nightmare.

    Limiting the nuclear access by requiring Congressional action is absurd. The whole point of a nuclear deterrent is to respond immediately. There’s a 30 minute window, if my 1950s Civil Defense booklets are still right. Next, Congress can’t agree on much of anything. They can barely agree to fund the spending decisions they’ve already made. What gives anyone the idea that they’d authorize a nuclear attack in anything less than years? Cold comfort to Allies actually under real threat.

    On the other hand, that very Congressional dysfunction now operates to defend JCPOA.

    The “system” is not at fault. The “system” never envisioned the election of a President Trump. Our friend, Dom, asks what are Trump’s objectives? Ask instead if Trump has objectives beyond “winning”. How would Trump define “winning”? I suspect, but certainly can’t prove, that Trump himself has not defined “winning”. I’d suggest that without a specific definition of “winning” Trump, and the rest of the world, are chasing the unachievable and will pay the price in disappointment and discontentment.

    • yabbed says:

      First strike nuclear attack, which is what we are talking about, needs to be curtailed because of Trump’s clearly demonstrated mental instability and lack of control. Response by the USA to a nuclear launch by an enemy is an entirely different issue.

      • idamag says:

        There are countries on both North Korea and Iran’s borders who will suffer the fallout. We weren’t the lease bit concerned when 10,000 men, women, and children civilians were bombed in Iraq to feather cheney’s nest.

        • yabbed says:

          And that includes China. Would they sit back and let that happen? The instability daily demonstrated by Trump is horrifying and needs to be checked before a world changing tragedy is set in motion. Where are the men in white jackets with their butterfly nets when we need them? A straightjacket is called for.

          • Independent1 says:

            Exactly; and what we really need is enough men in white jackets to also round up the 200+ Republican legislators and maybe a number in the White House who are letting Trump continue as president, who are as equally insane as he is.

          • yabbed says:

            19 GOP Senators up for election are potential Corkers but will they stand up or not?

          • idamag says:

            I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t a country, out there, for their security, would be trying to figure out how to take him out. If we added up all the numbers of I.Q.s, in congress, and divided them to get an average – I wonder if it would even be triple-digit.

      • plc97477 says:

        The better action would be to get t rump out of the presidency now. Give the button to someone with self control.

    • idamag says:

      The republican party has become the “on the other hand,.”

  3. idamag says:

    Reality show is a good description. It might be called 45. It appeals to a certain type of person and keeps them dumb.

  4. Dapper Dan says:

    And to think the worst that could happen under a president trump is Civil War. Instead we’re now hearing talk of this moron starting WWIII. Thanks again flyover America and you 78,000 voters in the states that awarded him your delegates handing this fool the presidency

  5. Richard Prescott says:

    All the discussion about whys, wheres, reasons. All basically sterile conjecture while the GOP controlled Congress and Senate do nothing to curb their “child in big boys pants” mentally deficient President. Having those two legislative bodies actually do something would be a total surprise and a 180 degree turn from the direction they are heading.
    Aside from the “last second” people who voted for him in those 6 states, and those who refused to vote because they didn’t like either candidate (this meant a couple things happened) the people with Republican representatives need to call their respective politicians and demand they step up and stop this moron.
    I would feel safe in stating that about 75% of the country do not like Trump nor his polices or destructive behavior. GOP, look at the numbers. Recognize a strong majority, not a fantasized one.

  6. These are all fine suggestions of responses to a petulant and irrational man-child, but they are dependent on a bitterly-divided, rigid behemoth brontosaurus of a bureaucracy which takes days for deciding what pair of wing tip shoes to wear, or how to comb a pompadour, to implement.

    The solution to the madness gripping Trump, Congress, and the rabid Trumpists, lies wholly outside the realm of politics. The NRA, Koch’s, Brietbart—even the KKK to some extent—and Big Business have enormous sway over government decisions and how Congress works and how its decision-making should proceed; the Supreme Court is now so politicized that it no longer understands the importance of objectivity and being unbiased, and unable to tell the difference between right and wrong, except if a decision agrees with a priori erroneous assumptions of what is reality and their ignorance of the meaning of being a human.

    Lobbyists and constituents in rigged electoral districts in effect run the country—we’re no longer dealing with a question of how to implement democratic principles, but which collection of plutocrats and/or majority districts have the greater sway. A slightly altered form of a totalitarianism has come into existence, quietly and extremely persuasive.

    With such a preponderance of amoral principles and views hamstringing the entire system of governance and the judicial systems, nothing can be agreed on, and we’ll just have to hope for Divine Intervention to enable the Baha’i Community to do a better job at inspiring people to examine with keen and open minds the Revelation of Baha’u’llah, and how to allow the Baha’i Communities at the local and National level to be involved in the conversations in a non-partisan manner of course, in order to allow the status quo structures to see the better roads to take in solving the multiplicity of problems besieging a severely disillusioned America.

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