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It’s Good To ‘Rattle’ Allies ‘In A Friendly Way,’ Trump Says Following Nomination Victory

Donald Trump’s plan for the world stage? Terrify America’s allies into respecting us again.

“Many of the countries in our world have been absolutely abusing us and taking advantage of us,” he said during a press conference in Bismarck, North Dakota on Thursday. “If they’re rattled in a friendly way, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.” Trump’s remarks were in response to comments made by President Obama during the G7 summit in Japan, that world leaders were “rattled” by Trump’s rhetoric.

“They’re rattled by him and for good reason,” Obama said during a press conference at the summit. “Because a lot of the proposals that he’s made display either ignorance of world affairs or a cavalier attitude or an interest in getting tweets and headlines instead of actually thinking through what is required to keep America safe.”

The newly-crowned Republican presidential nominee’s contradictory foreign policy platform has consisted of reversing the postwar world order, promoting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and starting a trade war with China in order to somehow balance out America’s trade deficit.

Of America’s allies, many of whom are members of NATO, Trump said during his foreign policy speech last month at the Center for the National Interest, “The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense – and, if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves.” It’s understandable that countries like Germany, Japan, South Korea, and many others would feel threatened by his rhetoric: Their postwar economic strength rested in large part upon a guarantee of security by the United States.

Trump simultaneously agreed and disagreed with the idea that South Korea, Japan, and even Saudi Arabia should by allowed build nuclear weapons during an interview on CNN with Anderson Cooper:

TRUMP: At some point we have to say, you know what, we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea, we’re better off, frankly, if South Korea is going to start to protect itself, we have…

COOPER:  Saudi Arabia, nuclear weapons?

TRUMP:  Saudi Arabia, absolutely.

COOPER:  You would be fine with them having nuclear weapons?

TRUMP:  No, not nuclear weapons, but they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us.

Here’s the thing, with Japan, they have to pay us or we have to let them protect themselves.

COOPER:  So if you said, Japan, yes, it’s fine, you get nuclear weapons, South Korea, you as well, and Saudi Arabia says we want them, too?

TRUMP:  Can I be honest with you?  It’s going to happen, anyway.  It’s going to happen anyway.  It’s only a question of time.  They’re going to start having them or we have to get rid of them entirely. But you have so many countries already, China, Pakistan, you have so many countries, Russia, you have so many countries right now that have them.

Now, wouldn’t you rather in a certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons? And they do have them. They absolutely have them. They can’t — they have no carrier system yet but they will very soon. Wouldn’t you rather have Japan, perhaps, they’re over there, they’re very close, they’re very fearful of North Korea, and we’re supposed to protect.

Trump’s avoiding the question at hand — he switches to discussing Japan when asked about Saudi Arabia — is one piece in a mountain of evidence that he hasn’t seriously considered the realities constraining his worldview, nor discussed shortcomings in his diplomatic or historical knowledge with any experts.

The same appears to be the case with Trump’s oft-repeated line that he will make China pay for stealing American jobs by instituting a 45 percent tariff on all Chinese goods entering the country. “I don’t mind trade wars when we’re losing $58 billion a year,” said Trump, even though having a trade deficit isn’t an inherently bad thing, as all countries have trade surpluses with certain trading partners and deficits with others. While only rough predictions are available on the consequences of a large-scale trade war, the consensus among economists is that the U.S. would fail to generate millions of jobs and would face reduced economic activity, if not an outright recession.

There’s nothing “friendly” about threatening key trading partners and allies.

‘Small Government’ Republicans Want To Control D.C.’s Budget

The House passed legislation Wednesday afternoon gutting a local ballot measure that would give Washington, D.C. more control over its finances. The vote took place on partisan lines, with Republicans voting for the measure and Democrats voting against it.

“The current D.C. government needs to be reined in,” said House Majority Leader Paul Ryan in a statement highlighting Republican arguments in support of the bill. “We will not allow Congress and the Constitution to be undermined.

“Congress has ultimate authority over the District,” he said, “and efforts to undermine this authority are in violation of the Constitution. There are real consequences.”

Lawmakers had voted 240-179 in favor of a bill that would prevent the District from spending tax dollars without congressional approval. The vote is the latest in a campaign that started in 2012 to give residents of D.C. greater autonomy in how to spend the city’s money, and is part of an effort by Republican congressmen to prevent the District from using local or federal cash to fund abortions or marijuana decriminalization (pot was legalized late last year in D.C.).

While the Republican-controlled Congress says it’s only reining in unconstitutional excesses, D.C.’s non-voting Congressional representative Eleanor Holmes Norton was understandably angered by legislation that nullified the 2012 Budget Autonomy Act, a ballot initiative aimed at giving more power to local government.

“It is profoundly undemocratic for any member of Congress in the 21st century to declare that he has authority over any jurisdiction except his own,” she said during a debate on the House floor.

But House Republicans have argued that the ballot initiative was a clear violation of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, a law passed in 1973 which devolved certain powers, like being able to elect a mayor and city council. But all laws passed by the District’s government had to be reviewed and approved by Congress before being signed into law, including yearly budget plans, hence the Republican bill aimed at overturning the Budget Autonomy Act.

President Obama has said he would veto any legislation that barred D.C. from following through on the overwhelming support the 2012 ballot initiative received from the city’s residents.

“The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 5233, which would repeal the District of Columbia’s Local Budget Autonomy Amendment Act of 2012,” read a statement of administrative policy sent out yesterday. “The Administration strongly supports home rule for the District and the President has long called for authority allowing the District to spend its own local taxes and other non-Federal funds without congressional approval … If the President were presented with H.R. 5233, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”

Prior to the vote, city officials had said they were planning to not submit their budget to Congress, as per the stipulations of the Budget Autonomy Act. Should Paul Ryan have his way, D.C. would be forced to submit its budget for approval, possibly at the cost of programs popular with residents of the District, including providing local funding for abortion access for Medicaid-eligible women, and establishing a regulatory framework for legal marijuana sales.

Photo: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 25, 2016.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Republican Senator Says Obama Should Nominate Scalia’s Replacement

Illinois Senator Mark Kirk broke ranks with his fellow Senate Republican threats to block any Supreme Court nominee that President Barack Obama puts forward. The senator’s announcement was the latest in backtracking by Republicans since they demanded that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement be chosen by the next president — who they assume will be more acceptably conservative.

In an opinion piece published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Kirk said, “I recognize the right of the president, be it Republican or Democrat, to place before the Senate a nominee for the Supreme Court and I fully expect and look forward to President Barack Obama advancing a nominee for the Senate to consider.”

The senator’s remarks came a week and a half after the Chicago Sun-Times published an editorial demanding that he do his job and hold hearings when Obama nominates his Supreme Court pick: “The simple answer is yes. Of course the Senate should,” it read, “That is their job: To ‘advise and consent.’ Nowhere in the Constitution does it say ‘hold your breath and hope to die.'”

But that hasn’t stopped Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from vowing to block any nominee Obama puts forth.  “The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” he said in a statement shortly after Scalia’s death was announced. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”

Numerous Republicans, including all presidential candidates still in the race, lined up behind him and made the same demand. Ronald Reagan — his ghost haunts this election season, and has many others — nominated Anthony Kennedy to the Supreme Court in November 1987. The Senate vote confirming him took place in February 1988, during Reagan’s last year in office.

As a Republican senator from a Democratic state up for reelection this year, Kirk is walking a political tight rope. As a moderate Republican, he has often taken a center ground in polarizing political debates. He’s voted alongside Republicans on issues like building a border wall with Mexico, Bush-era tax cuts, and invading Iraq. But he as also voted in favor of gay marriage rights, funding public housing, and abortion rights.

If Kirk is seen as too conservative, he risks losing his reelection bid to a Democrat. Should he be seen as too moderate, he might not even make it on the Republican ticket. He’s gotten the “RINO” charge before.

Whether or not more Republicans step back from the untenable position McConnell and the Republican leadership has taken remains to be seen. But the cracks in their defiant front are getting harder to paper over.

Sandra Day O’Connor — A Reagan Nominee — Says Obama Should Pick Scalia Replacement

As the fight over picking a new Supreme Court justice trudges on, former justice Sandra Day O’Connor, nominated to the court by Ronald Reagan in 1981, voiced her support of finding a replacement immediately.

“I think we need somebody there to do the job now and let’s get on with it,” she said, in an interview with Phoenix-based Fox affiliate KSAZ. “It’s an important position and one that we care about as a nation and as a people. And I wish the president well as he makes choices and goes down that line. It’s hard.”

Antonin Scalia was also nominated by Ronald Reagan, in 1986, but was much more conservative than O’Connor from the bench. O’Connor’s loyalty to conservative values were questioned during her confirmation process, given she cast a preliminary judgement as an Arizona state legislator that supported repealing an Arizona law that effectively criminalized abortions.

Scalia’s sudden passing has further upped the ante on this fever-pitched election cycle. Senate Republicans, including presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio, have said they will not support an Obama nominee, insisting instead that the newly-elected president make the nomination — that would be the longest delay on a Supreme Court nominee in history.

O’Connor’s support for Obama and the Democrat’s position is the latest in a series of endorsements from conservative personalities. Peter Johnson Jr., Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes’s personal attorney, made similar comments, saying the Republicans “have to recalibrate immediately.” Shortly afterwards, two Republican senators — including Sen. Chuck Grassley, a crucial voice as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee — said they wouldn’t automatically oppose any nominee Obama put forth.

Photo by: National Archives and Records Administration/Creative Commons