“Less than a year into Donald Trump’s presidency, top homeland security officials were so alarmed about escalating tensions with North Korea that they held multiple meetings to prepare for a nuclear attack on American soil, according to a forthcoming book by Miles Taylor, who was a top official in the department at the time.
In an excerpt of the book Blowback: A Warning to Save Democracy from the Next Trump that was shared with POLITICO, Taylor describes acute concerns in the Trump administration in 2017 after North Korean missile tests — including one while then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago. Trump responded to the missile tests with increasingly bellicose rhetoric.
“In the national security world, anything having to do with nuclear weapons is handled with extreme sensitivity — well planned, carefully scripted — yet we didn’t know what Trump might say at any given moment,” writes Taylor, who was intelligence and counter-threats counselor to the secretary of homeland security at the time. “One day, he threatened North Korea ‘with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.’ He almost seemed to welcome a nuclear conflict, which terrified us.”
Taylor said then-Defense Secretary James Mattis cornered him one day after a Situation Room meeting.
“‘You all need to prepare like we’re going to war,’ he warned. Mattis was serious. DHS should assume the homeland was in mortal danger.”
The Department of Homeland Security took a step it had never taken before, according to Taylor, who is best known for writing an anonymous op-ed in The New York Times in 2018 describing a “quiet resistance” in the Trump administration “of people choosing to put country first.”
“We convened every top leader in DHS to discuss the brewing crisis,” he writes in the new book, which is set for release on July 18. “Experts walked through various scenarios of a nuclear strike on the U.S. homeland, dusted off response plans, and outlined best-case scenarios which nevertheless sounded horrifically grim. I cannot provide the details, but I walked out of those meetings genuinely worried about the safety of the country. In my view, the department was unprepared for the type of nuclear conflict Trump might foment.””
“former President Donald Trump announced that he would seek a second nonconsecutive term as president. While it’s too early to predict Trump’s chances of going all the way, the former president is the current favorite to win the Republican primary again. But nothing is assured.
First, Trump remains popular and influential among Republican voters. According to Civiqs, 80 percent of registered Republican voters have a favorable view of the former president, and only 11 percent have an unfavorable view. Admittedly, he is a little less popular than on Election Day 2020 when 91 percent viewed him favorably. But the decline has been gradual.”
“Republican voters also demonstrated their loyalty to Trump — or at least his vision for the party — when they nominated 82 percent of the nonincumbents he endorsed in contested Republican primaries for Senate, House and governor.
Granted, that isn’t as impressive as it seems. Several times, Trump endorsed candidates who were already well on their way to winning. And Trump’s endorsees did fail to win certain highly watched contests, like the primary for Georgia governor. But just as often, Trump’s endorsement seemed to give a meaningful polling boost to its recipient. For example, Ohio Senate candidate and author J.D. Vance went from trailing in the polls before Trump’s endorsement to leading in almost every survey afterward.
Trump also leads early polling of the Republican primary by a substantial margin. In most national surveys, he registers in the high 40s or low 50s, 20-30 points ahead of his closest competitor, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. (Though DeSantis is polling higher than he did earlier in the year.)”
“Finally, Trump leads in polls of early primary states, albeit generally by smaller margins. A poll of Iowa conducted by a pro-DeSantis group over the summer showed Trump leading DeSantis 38 percent to 17 percent. In August, a poll of New Hampshire conducted by Saint Anselm College put Trump up 50 percent to 29 percent. And most recently, Susquehanna Polling & Research found Trump at 41 percent and DeSantis at 34 percent in Nevada in late October.1”
“we’re still more than a year away from anyone casting their votes, so those numbers could change. But an analysis by my colleague Geoffrey Skelley in 2019 found that national primary polls in the first half of the year before the election are pretty predictive of who will win the nomination. Historically, from 1972 to 2016, candidates with high name recognition who polled in the 40s and 50s nationally won the nomination more than 75 percent of the time.”
“Brazilian president Jaír Bolsonaro finally spoke to the country on Tuesday — almost 48 hours after losing the presidential runoff election to political rival and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva”
“the close results of the election — the tightest since Brazil’s transition to a democracy in 1984-1985 — make it clear that two Brazils likely do exist. Bolsonaro may have lost, but Bolsonarismo and the right-wing movement he created have become a more deeply rooted political phenomenon, said Pagliarini.
The election results, if anything, show the strength of the right wing in Brazil — which still had electoral success in 2022, and may see this election as a future to build on, one that transcends Bolsonaro himself. “If and when Bolsonaro leaves the stage, his presence will be felt for years to come, not just in elected office,” Pagliarini said.”
“On the eve of former President Donald Trump’s infamous tweet calling for his supporters to show up in Washington on January 6, the West Wing was “unhinged.”
As shown by the select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, the December 19 tweet followed an Oval Office meeting where insults, personal attacks, and even challenges to fistfights were exchanged among participants, as a group of outside advisers to Trump tried to persuade him to issue an executive order to seize voting machines and name lawyer Sidney Powell as a special counsel to investigate fraud in the election.
In a text message provided to the committee, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who was also in the West Wing at that time, described the meeting to another White House aide. “The west wing is UNHINGED,” she wrote.
Even that fails to describe the fiery nature of the showdown between attorneys from the White House counsel’s office and the likes of Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne. Giuliani testified that he called Trump’s White House lawyers “a bunch of pussies” for not zealously backing Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.”
“Biden, who says he went to the Middle East to address “the needs of the free world,” has explained the strengthening of relationships with Arab states and Israel as a success.
But it’s worth taking a look at what concrete victories that closeness produced.
Saudi airspace will be opened to Israeli planes — an incremental step toward normalizing relations between the two countries, yes, but more of a victory for jetliner rights than human rights. A new peacekeeping arrangement was announced for the Red Sea Islands between Egypt and Saudi Arabia; the islands have been a regional geopolitical touchpoint, but the deal is hardly a major win beyond the region. There was talk of bringing Iraq closer to its neighbors, with a new electricity initiative to connect Iraq with the Middle East. Infrastructure projects totaling about $100 million were announced for Palestinians, including 4G networks for the occupied West Bank. The latter two, while worthwhile, are minor compared to other US development and foreign aid streams of funding — and minuscule compared to annual military aid to Israel.
A moderate success was Saudi Arabia’s ongoing commitment to maintaining a ceasefire in Yemen, a worthy goal considering the destruction wrought there, in part with the support of American weaponry, though hardly an issue that demanded a presidential visit.
As for oil, we haven’t seen any grand announcements. Ahead of the trip, a US official told reporters there wouldn’t be any big energy news, and instead pointed to an announcement a month prior from OPEC that the group of oil-producing nations would increase production.
It has left observers wondering exactly why Biden made the journey.”
“A senior Biden administration official, on the last day of Biden’s Middle East trip, described human rights at the center of America’s goals — “I’d go so far, literally, to say right at the forefront of our foreign policy,” they said.
But human rights is not even at the forefront of the administration’s press releases, fact sheets, and meeting summaries.
The official touted a “Biden doctrine” for the region. In the document, values rank lowest — fifth — after bullet points about partnerships, deterrence, diplomacy, and integration. So partnerships (with unsavory leaders) and deterrence (through our security assistance) are the priorities here.”
“This Biden trip is a preview of US foreign policy in an era of great power competition with China and new fault lines of a world divided by Russian aggression. There are trade-offs. “You sanction Russian oil, and you give power to Middle Eastern autocrats,” Khalidi told me. “The only reason he’s sidling up to these human rights abusers is because of the knock-on effects of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, and the energy impact of that invasion.”
Or, as Freeman put it, “The message to the people in the region is we only care about you in the context of our great power rivalry.”
Despite the emphasis on Russia, there was little movement on solidifying a Middle East coalition in support of Ukraine. The United Arab Emirates is a major hub for Russian businesspeople and dirty money, and that seems unlikely to change. Egypt is a hot spot for Russian tourists. Saudi Arabia and Israel are still fence-sitters in the Ukraine conflict, hesitant to definitively take a side. While Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE voted to condemn Russia’s invasion in the UN resolution, none has joined the US-led sanctions against Moscow.
Yet all of these regional powers are making demands of the US to take a harder line on Iran and enable them militarily. (Wait, wouldn’t realpolitik be crafting a deal with Iran, and getting more oil production online in the process?)”
“Pollsters are increasingly embracing new methods in the run-up to the 2022 midterms after notable misses in recent races. Front of mind is the looming 2024 election cycle, when former President Donald Trump — whose support among the electorate has bedeviled pollsters trying to measure it for the past seven years, including missing low on Trump’s vote before his 2016 win and underestimating the closeness of his 2020 loss — could be on the ballot for the third consecutive presidential election.”
“Increasingly, pollsters across the field favor combining multiple methods of contact in the same poll, seeking to include the hardest-to-reach Americans.”
“It’s already happening across the board. After ending their more-than-30-year partnership with NBC News after the 2020 election, the Wall Street Journal’s new poll — a cooperative effort between the pollsters for both Trump and President Joe Biden — reaches a quarter of its respondents via text message. The technique, called “text-to-web,” sends a link to an internet survey, and those interviews are added to others conducted by voice over landlines and cell phones.
Over the past year, CNN’s polling has spanned a wide range of methods. Conducted both over the phone and the internet, some polls are conducted from respondents who have joined a panel maintained by SSRS, the Pennsylvania-based company that conducts polls for CNN and other outlets. But the samples for two other CNN polls — one earlier this year and one in the summer of 2021 — were obtained by mailing solicitations to people at home and asking them to participate, either on the phone or the web.
Prior to last summer, all of CNN’s national polling had been conducted by phone.
Large media outlets have experimented with emerging methodologies before. CBS News and The New York Times did some of the first major media polling over the internet in 2014.”
“as Americans become increasingly more difficult to reach, traditional methods are becoming more untenable.
“These things are only getting harder,” said one pollster who was granted anonymity to offer a candid assessment of the state of the industry. “So if you’re just doing the same thing, it’s only going to get worse.”
The innovations are not limited to sampling and data collection. But devising new weighting parameters — ways to adjust the results to better reflect the electorate — is more difficult. That’s because one of the main culprits of the 2020 election miss appears to be people who don’t respond to polls — so-called “nonresponse bias.” Voters in that group were more likely to support Trump, which made it harder for polls to reflect the true measure of his support.”
“some of the new proposals include weighting data to some social benchmarks, like the percentage of people who know and talk to their neighbors, or who volunteer in their community. Others suggest asking whether people trust media or polling in order to determine if their sample is too establishment-friendly.
The implementation of new methods is also happening at the campaign level, though to a lesser degree. Campaign pollsters — whose jobs involve giving candidates and outside groups strategic advice more than simply measuring the horse race — are dipping their toes tentatively into less-familiar waters.
In general, Democratic firms — many of which banded together after the 2020 election to study went wrong — are more open to experimentation.”
“whether Emmanuel Macron or Marine Le Pen is victorious, the election already offers more evidence of the challenges facing mainstream politics, with the collapse of the traditionally dominant parties and populist forces still rising across the West.”
“Whether this broad rejection of the status quo means we are headed toward a world dominated by illiberal politics or merely one of extreme and permanent volatility isn’t yet clear. And new crises, notably the consequences of climate change, may well fashion some hybrid version of our politics.
But ultimately, populism is probably a transition, not an end-state. The politics of the center are far from irrelevant, but our institutions — overwhelmed by the politics of accusation and resentment — no longer know how to provide voters with reasonable and legitimate means to address their grievances from a centrist vantage point. So populism, however destructive, may yet force Western politicians to craft new institutional paths to representation and to compromise — more in sync with what people experience in their everyday lives, and with what they value. More reactive, more local, and more flexible. But a painful and treacherous transition it is, something made quite clear in the French election.”
“Macron is no longer the exciting young maverick who stormed the Elysée, having siphoned support from a frustrated center-left and scandal-plagued center-right. He’s struggled to govern through crises like the Yellow Vests protests and pension reform strikes, while his “Jupiterian” approach and occasional sarcasm have all led to a deep resentment of his persona and some outright loathing in many quarters.
Post-pandemic, most French voters might have grudgingly agreed that Macron’s government has “done OK,” and as a result, Macron entered this election well ahead of other candidates in the polls, and slightly boosted by the Ukraine crisis. But a majority of voters are at best disillusioned and most often angry.
Meanwhile, in five short years, Le Pen has furthered her mission to appear more mainstream. Gone are the days when 80 percent of French voters thought she and her far-right party were a menace to democracy. Today, the number is barely 50 percent.
Le Pen’s strategy (since she took over the party from her Holocaust-denying father in 2011) has been to focus on lower income voters. Rather than simply woo those susceptible to a traditional populist right agenda on immigration and integration as her father had done, she made a play for working class voters who increasingly felt that the traditional left had deserted them and their interests. This story is a familiar one in advanced democracies where progressive or social democratic parties have struggled to reconcile representing the economically vulnerable while supporting inclusive visions of societies that lower income voters feel disproportionately benefit an (urban, cultural) elite. We saw this play out in the Brexit vote, but also in the Trump vote.”
“In 2017, Macron was elected by reducing the Socialists to rubble and putting the center-right on life support. This year, that trend accelerated, as the Socialists’ candidate came in below 2 percent (after holding the presidency a mere five years ago) and the leading candidate of the center-right came in under 5 percent. The result is that Macron aside, the candidates from the main institutional parties have been wiped out in this election.
Of the three candidates who came in over 20 percent, one is of the populist right (Le Pen) and one is of the populist left (Mélenchon); both advocate a distanced relationship with the EU and with the U.S., governance by popular referendum and pulling out of NATO or NATO’s integrated command. Add to this the 7 percent for extreme right Éric Zemmour and the 26 percent of voters who stayed home, and it shows the vast majority of French voters are refusing to engage with mainstream politics.”
“Part of the attraction of illiberal ideologies (sometimes imported from places such as Russia and China that have gone through more recent political and economic upheavals) is their rejection of the status quo. What is coming into focus is the fact that voters have a bone to pick not just with the choices they are being offered, but with the way they are being asked to choose.”