Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
The Trump administration’s policy on Iran is laser-focused on a singular objective: preventing the regime from obtaining nuclear weapons. “We’re not going to have Iran have a nuclear weapon,” President Trump told reporters this weekend. “And when they agree to that, they are going to have a wealthy country, they’re going to be so happy, and I’m going to be their best friend.”
In a tweet this morning, Trump added a second objective:
So, Trump’s Iran policy is laser-focused on two objectives: no nukes and no sponsoring of terrorism.
Also, speaking to reporters at around the same time as this tweet, Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway added the goals of preventing Iran from disrupting global oil markets and terrorizing its own people:
So our one goal is preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, or funding terrorism, or disrupting oil markets, or terrorizing its own people. (Terrorizing the Iranian people is our job.) In negotiating with Iran, our chief weapon is surprise. Surprise and fear.
It is possible Trump has cleverly designed an intricate diplomatic plan to confound Iran with an array of ever-shifting demands. But the best explanation of Trump’s behavior on almost any issue is usually the dumbest one. It is far more likely that Trump himself is simply confused, and what he wants is to rebrand the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran as his own.
The premise of Obama’s agreement with Iran was that the United States was going to prioritize halting Iran’s nuclear-weapons program over everything else. In return for a deal that nuclear-nonproliferation experts hailed for its rigor and enforcability, Iran would get sanctions relief.
Opponents of the deal hated it for this reason. They didn’t want Iran to be able to trade its nuclear ambitions for economic strength or diplomatic recognition, because they feared this would allow Iran to continue throwing its weight around the region. Republican critics of the deal denounced it for giving Iran a “multibillion-dollar windfall” and for granting “legitimacy” to the regime — which, to a degree, was a fair criticism. The deal, like any deal, contained a give and take, and the cost of ending Iran’s nuclear ambitions was to permit it more wealth and international legitimacy.
It is not clear that Trump ever truly grasped the conservative reasons for opposing the agreement. He surely understood at an instinctive level that any deal made by Obama must be bad and that Donald Trump could make a better one. He also seems to have absorbed the dumbed-down, Fox News version of the case against the deal. Obama “made a horrible deal, giving $150 billion, giving $1.8 billion in cash, in actual cash, carried out in barrels and in boxes, from airplanes,” he told Fox News two months ago. “It is inconceivable, $1.8 billion and all they do is scream death to America, death to America.”
Trump repeated this in a recent interview with Time:
When I took over Iran — when I took over as President, when I became President and then took over Jan. 20, Iran was a much different country 2-1/2 years ago. They were unbelievably hostile. They were truly a nation of terror … Look at when they were signing the agreement, they were all screaming death to America as they’re signing the agreement? What’s that all about?
Obviously, actual Iran hawks in the Republican foreign-policy elite didn’t design their policy around the objective of reducing anti-American chants. The chants were just an easy way of stoking resentment among the Fox News audience. What they didn’t quite count on was that one of those angry couch-potato grandfathers in their target demographic would be elected president.
So Trump hates the Iran deal. But he’s also not onboard with the actual conservative policy alternative, which is to use threats of war to force Iran to give up not only its nuclear program but also its support for militant proxies and possibly also (depending on which version of the strategy you listen to) its entire theocratic system of government.
Trump is now publicly describing his own national security adviser as a dangerous warmonger. “John Bolton is absolutely a hawk,” he tells NBC. “If it was up to him, he’d take on the whole world at one time, okay?”
What seems to be going on here is that Trump just assumed he could cut a better deal with Iran than Obama did, just as he assumed he could design a better health-care-reform law than Obama did. Just as Trump didn’t realize the actual Republican health-care plan was to take insurance away from people who couldn’t afford it on their own, he also didn’t realize the actual Republican Iran policy is a conflict ratchet that requires him to at least be willing to start a massive war.
So he’s trying to get out of his own mess with the strategy he used with NAFTA. Step one is to call the existing deal the worst agreement of all time and cancel it. Step two is to negotiate small tweaks. Step three is to declare the tweaked/rebranded deal to be the greatest treaty of all time.
The notion that Iran would become rich was the chief conservative complaint about the nuclear deal. Now it’s Trump’s promise.
Why Trump Is So Confused About His Own Iran Policy
More on the removal of migrant children from a facility that had been reported to be filthy and poorly managed
The U.S. government has removed most of the children from a remote Border Patrol station in Texas following reports that more than 300 children were detained there, caring for each other with inadequate food, water and sanitation.
Just 30 children remained at the facility near El Paso Monday, said Rep. Veronica Escobar after her office was briefed on the situation by an official with Customs and Border Protection.
Attorneys who visited the Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, last week said older children were trying to take care of infants and toddlers, The Associated Press first reported Thursday. They described a 4-year-old with matted hair who had gone without a shower for days, and hungry, inconsolable children struggling to soothe one another. Some had been locked for three weeks inside the facility, where 15 children were sick with the flu and another 10 were in medical quarantine.
To win the Senate, Democrats will likely need to defeat Susan Collins
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) drew a high-profile Democratic challenger Monday, as Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon announced her candidacy with a video that sought to undermine Collins’s carefully tended moderate image.
“Susan Collins has been in the Senate for 22 years,” Gideon says in the video. “And at one point, maybe she was different than some of the other folks in Washington, but she doesn’t seem that way any more.”
As Democrats seek to take back the Senate next year, Collins has become an inviting target in the wake of her votes for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominees and his tax bill. In her video, Gideon, who was encouraged to run by national Democrats, highlights both of those issues and includes footage of Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) praising Collins for her actions.
Abortion rights are still (barely) alive in Missouri
Trump says Kim Jong Un, the North Korea dictator, sent him a “very nice letter” with “birthday wishes.”
the tweet beat
I Highly Recommend the Beyoncé Twitter ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Game
By Madison Malone Kircher
Whatever you do … do not opt to let Beyoncé go swimming.
Journalism gets results at the border
BREAKING: Government moves more than 300 children out of Texas Border Patrol station after AP report of perilous conditions.
What We Learned From Leaked Trump Transition Vetting Documents
By Adam K. Raymond
Many would-be appointees had “red flags,” but they were hired anyway.
Trump Claims He Saved Obamacare, Despite His Multiple Attempts to Kill It
By Ed Kilgore
The latest in a series of breathtaking presidential lies denies his entire first-term health-care policy record.
the national interest
the national interest
Why Trump Is So Confused About His Own Iran Policy
By Jonathan Chait
It’s either an intricate diplomatic plan to confound Iran with an array of ever-shifting demands, or the work of a confused Fox News viewer.
Because sanctions were working so well before
Trump says he is signing executive order putting strong sanctions on Iran in response to drone shooting, says sanctions will target Iran’s supreme leader
As we wait for a SCOTUS census ruling, a federal judge sounds convinced on the discriminatory intent of adding a citizenship question
A federal judge in Maryland on Monday explained why he wanted another look at potential racial animus behind the Trump administration’s census citizenship question, with an opinion that said it “is becoming difficult to avoid seeing that which is increasingly clear.”
U.S. District Judge George Hazel moved last week to have an appeals court send the case back to him, after new evidence put forward by the challengers suggested a discriminatory intent in adding the citizenship question to the census.
“As more puzzle pieces are placed on the mat, a disturbing picture of the decisionmakers’ motives takes shape,” Hazel said in his opinion Monday.
The challengers in the case asked that he take another look at the issue after they found relevant evidence in the files of a now-deceased GOP redistricting consultant, Thomas Hofeller.
Now the trade war is personal
The pressure cooker that flew off shelves last Black Friday is getting pulled into the trade war.
The price of the popular Instant Pot would increase nearly $38 to $187.44 if the latest proposed 25% tariff on Chinese imports goes into effect, parent company Corelle Brands LLC said in a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative.
The company said the higher prices were “an unfair consequence” of the trade tensions because targeting electric multi-cookers “will in no way assist the USTR in its policy goals against China.”
Labrie’s case became a national story in 2015
The prep school student who was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old classmate was released from jail for good behavior.
Owen Labrie’s attorney confirmed to ABC News that he was released from Merrimack County’s jail Monday morning after nearly six months. He was serving the remaining 10 months of his sentence, The Associated Press reported.
Labrie, who is now 23 years old, was a student at the prestigious St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire when he was accused of sexually assaulting a younger student.
The case raised questions about sex culture on campus in light of accusations that the alleged incident was part of a so-called “Senior Salute,” where seniors allegedly target younger students.
SCOTUS sides with FUCT
How much would you pay in Beto O’Rourke’s proposed “war tax”?
What would @BetoORourke’s “war tax” be?
For households making less than…
– $30,000 — $25
– $40,000 — $57
– $50,000 — $98
– $75,000 — $164
– $100,000 — $270
– $200,000 — $485
– More than $200,000 — $1,000
It’d go into trust funds for vets created at the start of each new war. https://t.co/Kkt8KFEh2V
Poll: Most people aren’t paying attention
Only 22% of Democrats registered to vote say they know a lot about the candidates’ positions, while 62% say they know a little. And only 35% say they’re paying close attention to the campaign, with almost two-thirds saying they’re paying some or no attention.
It was a rough weekend for Mayor Pete
As he soared from obscurity to top-tier presidential candidate this year, Mayor Pete Buttigieg rooted his unlikely campaign in an argument he hoped would fit both the moment and his relatively thin resume: that what a nation fed up with big government truly needs is to “get Washington to look more like our best-run cities and towns.”
Now that South Bend is in the throes of a crisis over race, policing and city leadership, that rationale is running headlong into the inconvenient reality that when things go sour, mayors can be held immediately and directly responsible in a way that senators and congressman are not.
The recent unrest in South Bend — triggered by the fatal shooting of Eric Logan, a black man, by a white police officer a week ago — has become the most profound hurdle for Buttigieg’s candidacy to date. It has also tested his readiness to confront an issue that seems to call for a visceral, emotional response, rather than the cerebral, levelheaded comportment that has made the 37-year-old mayor seem so unflappable on the campaign trail.
One of these blockbusters, or both, could finally come down this morning
The Supreme Court is set to decide both partisan gerrymandering and census cases this week. Stay tuned…
Biden wants to make it clear that he’s focused on Trump, not fighting with his Democratic primary rivals
Former Vice President Joe Biden criticized President Trump’s “racist invective” and called for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and a new foreign policy direction in Latin America and the Caribbean as part of his presidential campaign’s first glimpse of his immigration policy.
Biden’s announcement, which appeared Monday in a Miami Herald op-ed, was as much a broad outline of his immigration and foreign policy ideas as it was a critique of Trump administration policies.
“Under Trump, there have been horrifying scenes at the border of kids being kept in cages, tear gassing asylum seekers, ripping children from their mothers’ arms — actions that subvert our American values and erode our ability to lead on the global stage,” according to Biden’s op-ed, which ran in the Miami Herald’s Spanish-language publication, El Nuevo Herald, as well.
“At a time when the challenges we face demand a united, regional response, Trump repeatedly invokes racist invective to describe anyone south of the Rio Grande, including calling migrants ‘animals’,” Biden wrote.
There was no U.S. strike on Iran over the weekend but tensions haven’t cooled
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Saudi Arabia on Monday in a hastily arranged visit amid mounting tensions between Washington and Tehran as Iran’s navy chief warned Iranian forces wouldn’t hesitate to shoot down more U.S. surveillance drones from their skies.
The downing of the drone, valued at more than $100 million, saw the United States pull back from the brink of a military strike on Iran after President Donald Trump last week called off strikes in retaliation.
Iran’s naval commander, Rear Adm. Hossein Khanzadi, threatened Washington, saying that Tehran is capable of shooting down other American spy drones that violate Iranian airspace.
“We confidently say that the crushing response can always be repeated, and the enemy knows it,” Khanzadi was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency during a meeting with a group of defense officials.
Marianne Williamson Makes a Case for a Recovery Presidency
By Amy Larocca
Sixty-eight minutes with the self-help guru – and 2020 dark horse – who sees “both sides” on vaccines.
How Cindy Yang Learned to Throw a Party at Mar-a-Lago
By Andrew Rice
She was just a massage-parlor tycoon turned GOP bundler until Robert Kraft got arrested and the FBI started paying attention.
Even the Trump Transition Team Knew Some Appointees Were Bad Hires: Report
By Matt Stieb
In newly obtained documents, the Trump transition team flagged some candidates as worrisome for the exact reason they were eventually let go.
A major policy step on the week of the first debates
Everything We Know About the Inhumane Conditions at Migrant Detention Camps
By Matt Stieb
Migrant children have allegedly been denied adequate medical care and sanitation, and some were reportedly forced to sleep on the floor as punishment.
Even the Trump transition team knew his staffing choices were trouble
Nearly 100 internal Trump transition vetting documents leaked to “Axios on HBO” identify a host of “red flags” about officials who went on to get some of the most powerful jobs in the U.S. government.
Scott Pruitt, who ultimately lost his job as EPA Administrator because of serial ethical abuses and clubbiness with lobbyists, had a section in his vetting form titled “allegations of coziness with big energy companies.”
Mick Mulvaney, who became Trump’s Budget Director and is now his acting chief of staff, has a striking assortment of “red flags,” including his assessment that Trump “is not a very good person.”
The Trump transition team was so worried about Rudy Giuliani, in line for Secretary of State, that they created a separate 25-page document titled “Rudy Giuliani Business Ties Research Dossier” with copious accounting of his “foreign entanglements.”
Democratic Presidential Candidates Respond to New Rape Allegation Against Trump
By Olivia Nuzzi
They were asked to respond to E. Jean Carroll’s accusation and weigh in on whether Congress should get involved.
How Readers, Pundits, and Trump Have Responded to E. Jean Carroll’s Allegations
By Chas Danner
Carroll’s revelation has prompted praise, heartbreak, anger, and questions — here’s what’s been happening since she came forward.
America’s Top Economists Needlessly Undermined Growth, Study Confirms
By Eric Levitz
A new analysis confirms that for years, central bankers and top economists underestimated America’s true unemployment rate.
More horrifying claims about the care of migrant children in U.S. custody
Four toddlers were so severely ill and neglected at a U.S. Border Patrol facility in McAllen, Texas, that lawyers forced the government to hospitalize them last week.
The children, all under age 3 with teenage mothers or guardians, were feverish, coughing, vomiting and had diarrhea, immigration attorneys told HuffPost on Friday. Some of the toddlers and infants were refusing to eat or drink. One 2-year-old’s eyes were rolled back in her head, and she was “completely unresponsive” and limp, according to Toby Gialluca, a Florida-based attorney.
She described seeing terror in the children’s eyes.
“It’s just a cold, fearful look that you should never see in a child of that age,” Gialluca said. “You look at them and you think, ‘What have you seen?’”