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US, Britain, and France stand up to China in the South China Sea

International Law is a club for the US and its allies to bend other nations to their will

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The three nations which got together to create a ‘coalition’ that engaged in ‘precision strikes’ in Syria back in April are getting together again, this time the intended target is China.

In Syria, there was a tweet showing a video which was posted by a group which actively works with and around al-Nusra and ISIS terrorists and which video contents or origin was never verified.

Nevertheless, the claim was that a chemical attack had occurred and the site was Douma, where the Syrian government forces were gaining ground against the jihadists. So the story was that the Syrian government had carried out a chemical attack in Douma, and that the attack led to the deaths of nearly 600 people. And then, the leadership of Britain, France, and the US came out claiming that they had proof that Syria was ‘likely’ to have carried out a chemical attack in Douma on April 7th.

An OPCW investigation was called for and was dispatched, but the ‘coalition’ carried out a military strike on Damascus and surrounding areas hours before that investigation could be initiated. So, the allegations were that Syria had broken international law and that swift punishment was coming from a self appointed coalition before an independent investigation could be conducted.

That coalition, however, was breaking international law by carrying out a military strike without independently acquired evidence, and without a UNSC mandate, so they were breaking international law to punish the breaking of international law. But that works out well for Trump, May, and Macron.

Now, they’re claiming a breach of international law in the South China Sea, and they want to strutt about the area knowingly antagonizing the Chinese, instead of taking the matter up in a diplomatic fashion.

Deutsche Welle reports:

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis is in China this week for the first time and at the top of the agenda between the two nations is China’s continued expansion of military installations in the South China Sea (SCS).

After Mattis met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, China’s state broadcaster CCTV reported that Xi told Mattis China would not “lose one inch” of territory “left behind by our ancestors.”

China frequently refers to islands in the SCS as part of its historical territory, although they are claimed by six other nations.

“Regarding China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, our attitude is firm and clear,” said Xi.

In early June at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security conference in Singapore, Mattis told the audience that there would be “much larger consequences” in response to China’s continued installation of military infrastructure on disputed islands in the SCS.

Joining the revamped US effort to increase pressure on China in the SCS, French Defense Minster Florence Parly said a French maritime task group, together with UK helicopters and ships, would conduct freedom of navigation operations, sailing naval vessels through international waters in the SCS, which China considers as its maritime territory.

Referring to the political differences between France and Britain, Parly said in a speech that when meeting in Asia, the two countries shared deeply significant “vision, strength and values” along with a “willingness to project them.”

Parly added that France supported a rules-based international order on the SCS and that freedom of navigation must be upheld.

“France fully supports a code of conduct in the South China Sea, which should be legally binding, comprehensive, effective and consistent with international law,” said Parly. “We should be very clear that the fait accompli is not a fait accepted.”

Freedom of navigation

By building military installations on islands in the SCS, China claims territorial sovereignty over areas far from the mainland, although this is not officially recognized by any international body. The freedom of navigation operations carried out by the US and other navies are a way to demonstrate the validity of international law.

China remains defiant in claiming international waters and is using its growing navy to enforce its territorial ambition.

Jonas Parello-Plesner, an observer who was aboard a French military vessel during the joint freedom of navigation operation announced at the Singapore conference, gave a first hand account to the Wall Street Journal of the flotilla’s encounter with the Chinese navy near the Spratly Islands.

Parello-Plesner reported that a Chinese frigate contacted the French vessel by radio as they passed through Mischief, Subi and Fiery Cross Reefs, where China in recent years has built artificial islands and military installations.

“This is China warship calling. The Nansha islands are under Chinese sovereignty. What are your intentions?” After the French captain replied that they were lawfully sailing through international waters, they were tailed by Chinese naval vessels.

A Chinese lake?

It is estimate that in 2014, China began construction of artificial islands on reefs in the Spratly archipelago. This raised alarm in the US and Asia that China would be able to project its military around the SCS and potentially exert control over waterways that carried an estimated $3.3 trillion, or one-third of global trade, in 2016.

Despite continued international condemnation led by the US, China’s militarization of the SCS has continued unabated.

In 2017, satellite images released by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (ATMI), part of the Washington-based think tank, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), showed the extent of China’s military build up on the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands further north. According to the ATMI, China has extensive missile systems along with radar jammers on the islands.

The images clearly show completed airstrips and other infrastructure. In April 2018, China conducted its largest-ever naval exercise in the SCS. In May, the Chinese landed a warplane for the first time on an air strip on Woody Island, in the Paracels.

China’s ambition vs. international law

Although China continues to increase its capability, observers do not think that it is too late for international coalitions to maintain the integrity of international waterways passing through the SCS.

“Beijing is certainly winning more peacetime control over activity on and above the South China Sea each day, but it hasn’t completed that control yet,” Gregory Poling, the director of ATMI told DW, adding that increased engagement of the French and British navies send a strong signal to China.

“They make clear that the SCS is not a Sino-US issue,” said Poling. “It’s a matter of China vs. an overwhelming international consensus about international law and norms.”

As for the “consequences” promised by US Secretary of Defense Mattis, there are limitations to what the US military can do, outside of projecting force. Mattis is in China this week on his first visit since becoming secretary.

In May, the US rescinded China’s invitation to participate in Rimpac, an international biennial military exercise in the Pacific Ocean. On Tuesday the US aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Regan, anchored in Manila Bay to begin patrolling the South China Sea. It is the third US aircraft carrier sent this year.

“There are a lot of ‘larger consequences’ the US could consider, but most of them don’t come from the Pentagon,” said Poling, adding that while the joint training and deterrence measures were what the US Department of Defense should be doing, political pressure is what’s missing.

“Putting additional pressure on Beijing will require high-level focus and a strategy from the White House, which has been sorely lacking,” said Poling.

Putting pressure on Beijing

An important part of a political solution addressing China’s ambition in the SCS is building international coalitions. The UK and France declaring their will to cooperate on maintaining international maritime norms is a reminder to China that the SCS is still an important issue.

“The UK and France are showing that they care about the international rules that almost the entire world has signed up,” Bill Hayton a South China Sea expert at the UK-based think tank Chatham House, told DW.

“The right of all ships to sail wherever they want in the sea on the basis of innocent passage has been a fundamental international principle for decades but it looks as if China is attempting to unilaterally limit it,” said Hayton. “The recent voyages by French and British warships are a way of resisting that limitation.”

“The SCS needs to be put back at the top of the diplomatic agenda to isolate Beijing,” said Poling from CSIS.

It seems the UK and France have realized that the only way to salvage UN Convention on Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the principles on which it and the larger rules-based order are based is to join the effort to convince Beijing to clarify its claims,” he added. “The US cannot do it alone, even if it were so inclined.”

So, now, all of the sudden, there’s this international rules-based order that nations are expected to abide by to keep everybody from stepping on each other’s toes and to preserve peace and order, and prosperity, and all that sort of jazz. It doesn’t seem to mean that much to the Americans who are out slapping tariffs on the rest of the planet and dropping bombs wherever they jolly well please, and it certainly didn’t mean much to the ‘coalition’ which set out to bomb Syria just over two months ago. Where was, and is, international law relevant to these matters?

Part of what makes a law a law is that it has the respect of the community that it was promulgated to, but in the case of international law, it increasingly looks like it was and is something created by America and its allies as a club to use at their discretion to smear other nations with and to use as a pretext and/or justification for military or economic aggression. That’s why Nikki Haley considers it ‘patently ridiculous’ to apply human rights standards to America, and to measure America’s performance, as if America were actually expected to subject to those sorts of standards.

International law, based on what we see coming out of the West, then, is not so much actual internationally agreed upon standards of conduct to preserve peace and prosperity as they are a means of projecting the power of the West by means of internationally agreed upon propaganda.If and when it shows that it actually has the meanings which it says it has, in whichever body or agreement, then it should be demonstrated by realizing its application not just in non-NATO countries, but especially there, to be the examples of how nations in a civilized world ought to carry themselves.

For this reason, why should we expect China to waltz to the tune being played by the US, which is violating trade rules which it created for its own benefit with other nations, and which nations happen to be their own allies and trade partners? Is this why we’re seeing ‘freedom of navigation’ operations taking place in the South China Sea, instead of carrying out some diplomacy in the matter to help come to an understanding, because the US has no interest in diplomacy, and believes that action is required now while thinking and talking can go down later, after the US has what it wants? Then the question is, why now all of the sudden the interest from the US and its two best friends, when this issue is not a new one, what’s in it for them now that wasn’t there before? Is this part of a new pressure cooking campaign to push China in a certain direction, possibly trade related?

 

 

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AM HantsJohn MasonIsabella JonesLinda WrenJohn Vu Recent comment authors
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AM Hants
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AM Hants

Doubt China will have the patience of Russia.

John Mason
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John Mason

The messaging is plain: Iran, China, and Russia are the three key players in what promises to be the Eurasian Century. They are also working as one in the Real War on Terror in Syria. President Trump – and his administration – is the ultimate fraud here, willing to do anything – even provoke what Beijing says AN ALL-OUT WAR to divide and threaten these three countries in a desperate bid to regime change Syria, to stop the Eurasian Century from happening, and to “Make America Great Again”. All this has the potential to backfire splendidly though. Contrary to Trump’s… Read more »

Isabella Jones
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Isabella Jones

Headline is wrong. To say someone is “standing up to” another, is to carry the implication that the one doing the “standing up” is being honourable, courageous, against a bully. It’s called the South China Sea. It’s along way from America, UK or France. They need to get the blazes out of there. Hopefully China can make them see that without resorting to force. The writer is correct though, regarding the total destruction of any sort of International Law especially. However, there is one thing the recent actions of the Rogue – 3 have done – they have highlighted for… Read more »

Linda Wren
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Linda Wren

China should call in American debt. That is legal.

John Vu
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John Vu

Devil has a plan for your country: After Putin got his fill with Crimea and Syria, now it’s Deepstate’s turn to make some dough selling some surplus stale equipments to the Filip and Vn.

Gonzogal
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Gonzogal

Hold on a minute….I just read the article on Duran that the Eu wants to deepen economic ties with China due to the US actions and now they are going to try to “contain China”….good luck with both
http://theduran.com/eu-to-deepen-economic-cooperation-with-china-amid-trade-row-with-america/

Helen B
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Helen B

US, France and UK have no borders anywhere near the South China Sea.
Go home and sort out your own problems, of which there are many.
Mind your own business.

Che Serna
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Che Serna

The 3 stooges lead by the big pimp USA’s military industrial complex! No one has yet explained why China would want to stop freedom of navigation in the SCS. About 75% of all commercial shipping goes in and out of Chinese ports which include of course HK. Moreover, warships are not innocent passage in respect to the law of the sea convention. In which America refuses to ratify as a world rogue leader state. So on the one hand you have hypocrites lead by the USA wanting the rule of law which she USA refuses to join! Talk about American… Read more »

Nexusfast123
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Nexusfast123

Those people (Trump, May and the creepy French twat) are ignorant of history. I’m sure the Chinese have not forgotten what the European empires and the US did to them. Also ironic the vast majority of trade that passes through the SCS is Chinese. This is more a threat to China’s sea going commerce than China threatening other nations.

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FBI recommended Michael Flynn not have lawyer present during interview, did not warn of false statement consequences

Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 18.

Washington Examiner

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Via The Washington Examiner…


Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who arranged the bureau’s interview with then-national security adviser Michael Flynn at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017 — the interview that ultimately led to Flynn’s guilty plea on one count of making false statements — suggested Flynn not have a lawyer present at the session, according to newly-filed court documents. In addition, FBI officials, along with the two agents who interviewed Flynn, decided specifically not to warn him that there would be penalties for making false statements because the agents wanted to ensure that Flynn was “relaxed” during the session.

The new information, drawn from McCabe’s account of events plus the FBI agents’ writeup of the interview — the so-called 302 report — is contained in a sentencing memo filed Tuesday by Flynn’s defense team.

Citing McCabe’s account, the sentencing memo says that shortly after noon on Jan. 24 — the fourth day of the new Trump administration — McCabe called Flynn on a secure phone in Flynn’s West Wing office. The two men discussed business briefly and then McCabe said that he “felt that we needed to have two of our agents sit down” with Flynn to discuss Flynn’s talks with Russian officials during the presidential transition.

McCabe, by his own account, urged Flynn to talk to the agents alone, without a lawyer present. “I explained that I thought the quickest way to get this done was to have a conversation between [Flynn] and the agents only,” McCabe wrote. “I further stated that if LTG Flynn wished to include anyone else in the meeting, like the White House counsel for instance, that I would need to involve the Department of Justice. [Flynn] stated that this would not be necessary and agreed to meet with the agents without any additional participants.”

Within two hours, the agents were in Flynn’s office. According to the 302 report quoted in the Flynn sentencing document, the agents said Flynn was “relaxed and jocular” and offered the agents “a little tour” of his part of the White House.

“The agents did not provide Gen. Flynn with a warning of the penalties for making a false statement under 18 U.S.C. 1001 before, during, or after the interview,” the Flynn memo says. According to the 302, before the interview, McCabe and other FBI officials “decided the agents would not warn Flynn that it was a crime to lie during an FBI interview because they wanted Flynn to be relaxed, and they were concerned that giving the warnings might adversely affect the rapport.”

The agents had, of course, seen transcripts of Flynn’s wiretapped conversations with Russian then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak. “Before the interview, FBI officials had also decided that if ‘Flynn said he did not remember something they knew he said, they would use the exact words Flynn used … to try to refresh his recollection. If Flynn still would not confirm what he said … they would not confront him or talk him through it,'” the Flynn memo says, citing the FBI 302.

“One of the agents reported that Gen. Flynn was ‘unguarded’ during the interview and ‘clearly saw the FBI agents as allies,'” the Flynn memo says, again citing the 302.

Later in the memo, Flynn’s lawyers argue that the FBI treated Flynn differently from two other Trump-Russia figures who have pleaded guilty to and been sentenced for making false statements. One of them, Alexander Van der Zwaan, “was represented by counsel during the interview; he was interviewed at a time when there was a publicly disclosed, full-bore investigation regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election; and he was given a warning that it is a federal crime to lie during the interview,” according to the memo. The other, George Papadopoulos, “was specifically notified of the seriousness of the investigation…was warned that lying to investigators was a ‘federal offense’…had time to reflect on his answers…and met with the FBI the following month for a further set of interviews, accompanied by his counsel, and did not correct his false statements.”

The message of the sentencing memo is clear: Flynn, his lawyers suggest, was surprised, rushed, not warned of the context or seriousness of the questioning, and discouraged from having a lawyer present.

That is all the sentencing document contains about the interview itself. In a footnote, Flynn’s lawyers noted that the government did not object to the quotations from the FBI 302 report.

In one striking detail, footnotes in the Flynn memo say the 302 report cited was dated Aug. 22, 2017 — nearly seven months after the Flynn interview. It is not clear why the report would be written so long after the interview itself.

The brief excerpts from the 302 used in the Flynn defense memo will likely spur more requests from Congress to see the original FBI documents. Both House and Senate investigating committees have demanded that the Justice Department allow them to see the Flynn 302, but have so far been refused.

In the memo, Flynn’s lawyers say that he made a “serious error in judgment” in the interview. Citing Flynn’s distinguished 30-plus year record of service in the U.S. Army, they ask the judge to go along with special counsel Robert Mueller’s recommendation that Flynn be spared any time in prison.

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Macron offers crumbs to protestors in bid to save his globalist agenda (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 36.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at French President Macron’s pathetic display of leadership as he offers protestors little in the way of concessions while at the same time promising to crack down hard on any and all citizens who resort to violence.

Meanwhile France’s economy is set for a deep recession as French output and production grinds to a halt.

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Via Zerohedge


As if Brussels didn’t have its hands full already with Italy and the UK, the European Union will soon be forced to rationalize why one of its favorite core members is allowed to pursue populist measures to blow out its budget deficit to ease domestic unrest while another is threatened with fines potentially amounting to billions of euros.

When blaming Russia failed to quell the widespread anger elicited by his policies, French President Emmanuel Macron tried to appease the increasingly violent “yellow vests” protesters who have sacked his capital city by offering massive tax cuts that could blow the French budget out beyond the 3% budget threshold outlined in the bloc’s fiscal rules.

Given the concessions recently offered by Italy’s populists, Macron’s couldn’t have picked a worse time to challenge the bloc’s fiscal conventions. As Bloomberg pointed out, these rules will almost certainly set the Continent’s second largest economy on a collision course with Brussels. To be clear, Macron’s offered cuts come with a price tag of about €11 billion according to Les Echos, and will leave the country with a budget gap of 3.5% of GDP in 2019, with one government official said the deficit may be higher than 3.6%.

By comparison, Italy’s initial projections put its deficit target at 2.4%, a number which Europe has repeatedly refused to consider.

Macron’s promises of fiscal stimulus – which come on top of his government’s decision to delay the planned gas-tax hikes that helped inspire the protests – were part of a broader ‘mea culpa’ offered by Macron in a speech Monday night, where he also planned to hike France’s minimum wage.

Of course, when Brussels inevitably objects, perhaps Macron could just show them this video of French police tossing a wheelchair-bound protester to the ground.

Already, the Italians are complaining.  Speaking on Tuesday, Italian cabinet undersecretary Giancarlo Giorgetti said Italy hasn’t breached the EU deficit limit. “I repeat that from the Italian government there is a reasonable approach, if there is one also from the EU a solution will be found.”

“France has several times breached the 3% deficit. Italy hasn’t done it. They are different situations. There are many indicators to assess.”

Still, as one Guardian columnist pointed out in an op-ed published Tuesday morning, the fact that the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) organizers managed to pressure Macron to cave and grant concessions after just 4 weeks of protests will only embolden them to push for even more radical demands: The collapse of the government of the supremely unpopular Macron.

Then again, with Brussels now facing certain accusations of hypocrisy, the fact that Macron was pressured into the exact same populist measures for which Italy has been slammed, the French fiasco raises the odds that Rome can pass any deficit measure it wants with the EU now forced to quietly look away even as it jawbones all the way from the bank (i.e., the German taxpayers).

“Macron’s spending will encourage Salvini and Di Maio,” said Giovanni Orsina, head of the School of Government at Rome’s Luiss-Guido Carli University. “Macron was supposed to be the spearhead of pro-European forces, if he himself is forced to challenge EU rules, Salvini and Di Maio will jump on that to push their contention that those rules are wrong.”

While we look forward to how Brussels will square this circle, markets are less excited.

Exhausted from lurching from one extreme to another following conflicting headlines, traders are already asking if “France is the new Italy.” The reason: the French OAT curve has bear steepened this morning with 10Y yields rising as much as ~6bp, with the Bund/OAT spread reaching the widest since May 2017 and the French presidential election. Though well below the peaks of last year, further widening would push the gap into levels reserved for heightened political risk.

As Bloomberg macro analyst Michael Read notes this morning, it’s hard to see a specific near-term trigger blowing out the Bund/OAT spread but the trend looks likely to slowly drift higher.

While Macron has to fight on both domestic and European fronts, he’ll need to keep peace at home to stay on top. Remember that we saw the 10Y spread widen to ~80bps around the May ’17 elections as concerns of a move toward the political fringe played out in the markets, and the French President’s popularity ratings already look far from rosy.

And just like that France may have solved the Italian crisis.

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Watch: Democrat Chuck Schumer shows his East Coast elitism on live TV

Amazing moment in which the President exhibits “transparency in government” and shows the world who the Democrat leaders really are.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the reasons Donald Trump was elected to the Presidency was because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – against Democrat policy decisions and “stupid government” in general.

One of the reasons President Donald Trump is reviled is because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – in the American political scene.

In other words, there are two reactions to the same characteristic. On Tuesday, the President did something that probably cheered and delighted a great many Americans who witnessed this.

The Democrats have been unanimous in taking any chance to roast the President, or to call for his impeachment, or to incite violence against him. But Tuesday was President Trump’s turn. He invited the two Democrat leaders, presumptive incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and then, he turned the cameras on:

As Tucker Carlson notes, the body language from Schumer was fury. The old (something)-eating grin covered up humiliation, embarrassment and probably no small amount of fear, as this whole incident was filmed and broadcast openly and transparently to the American public. Nancy Pelosi was similarly agitated, and she expressed it later after this humiliation on camera, saying, “It’s like a manhood thing for him… As if manhood could ever be associated with him.”

She didn’t stop there. According to a report from the New York Daily News, the Queen Bee took the rhetoric a step below even her sense of dignity:

Pelosi stressed she made clear to Trump there isn’t enough support in Congress for a wall and speculated the President is refusing to back down because he’s scared to run away with his tail between his legs.

“I was trying to be the mom. I can’t explain it to you. It was so wild,” Pelosi said of the Oval Office meet, which was also attended by Vice President Pence and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “It goes to show you: you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

This represented the first salvo in a major spin-job for the ultra-liberal San Francisco Democrat. The rhetoric spun by Mrs. Pelosi and Chuck Schumer was desperate as they tried to deflect their humiliation and place it back on the President:

With reporters still present, Trump boasted during the Oval meeting he would be “proud” to shutdown the government if Congress doesn’t earmark cash for his wall before a Dec. 21 spending deadline.

Pelosi told Democrats that Trump’s boisterousness will be beneficial for them.

“The fact is we did get him to say, to fully own that the shutdown was his,” Pelosi said. “That was an accomplishment.”

The press tried to characterize this as a “Trump Tantrum”, saying things like this lede:

While “discussing” a budgetary agreement for the government, President Donald Trump crossed his arms and declared: “we will shut down the government if there is no wall.”

While the Democrats and the mainstream media in the US are sure to largely buy these interpretations of the event, the fact that this matter was televised live shows that the matter was entirely different, and this will be discomfiting to all but those Democrats and Trump-dislikers that will not look at reality.

There appears to be a twofold accomplishment for the President in this confrontation:

  1. The President revealed to his support base the real nature of the conversation with the Democrat leadership, because anyone watching this broadcast (and later, video clip) saw it unedited with their own eyes. They witnessed the pettiness of both Democrats and they witnessed a President completely comfortable and confident about the situation.
  2. President Trump probably made many of his supporters cheer with the commitment to shut down the government if he doesn’t get his border wall funding. This cheering is for both the strength shown about getting the wall finished and the promise to shut the government down, and further, Mr. Trump’s assertion that he would be “proud” to shut the government down, taking complete ownership willingly, reflects a sentiment that many of his supporters share.

The usual pattern is for the media, Democrats and even some Republicans to create a “scare” narrative about government shutdowns, about how doing this is a sure-fire path to chaos and suffering for the United States.

But the educated understanding of how shutdowns work reveals something completely different. Vital services never close. However, National Parks can close partly or completely, and some non-essential government agencies are shuttered. While this is an inconvenience for the employees furloughed during the shutdown, they eventually are re-compensated for the time lost, and are likely to receive help during the shutdown period if they need it. The impact on the nation is minimal, aside from the fact that the government stops spending money at the same frenetic pace as usual.

President Trump’s expression of willingness to do this action and his singling out of the Dem leadership gives the Democrats a real problem. Now the entire country sees their nature. As President Trump is a populist, this visceral display of Democrat opposition and pettiness will make at least some impact on the population, even that group of people who are not Trump fans.

The media reaction and that of the Democrats here show, amazingly, that after three years-plus of Donald Trump being a thorn in their side, they still do not understand how he works, and they also cannot match it against their expected “norms” of establishment behavior.

This may be a brilliant masterstroke, and it also may be followed up by more. The President relishes head-to-head conflict. The reactions of these congress members showed who they really are.

Let the games begin.

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