Donald Trump Archives - Page 7 of 289 - Florida Politics

Donald Trump renews Twitter criticism of Amazon

President Donald Trump is renewing his attacks on e-commerce giant Amazon, and he says the company is “doing great damage to tax paying retailers.”

Trump tweets that “towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt – many jobs being lost!”

The president has often criticized the company and CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post.

Many traditional retailers are closing stores and blaming Amazon for a shift to buying goods online. But the company has been hiring thousands of warehouse workers on the spot at job fairs across the country. Amazon has announced goal of adding 100,000 full-time workers by the middle of next year.

Trump has in the past tweeted that Amazon was not paying “Internet taxes.” But it’s unclear what he meant by that. Amazon.com collects state sales taxes in all 45 states with a sales tax and the District of Columbia, according to their website. State governments have sought to capture sales taxes lost to internet retailers, though they have struggled with a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that retailers must have a physical presence in a state before officials can make them collect sales tax.

Amazon did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

GOP strategist Rick Wilson tees off on Donald Trump

As the Republican field running for governor grows, a top GOP strategist offered some advice Wednesday to candidates seeking to follow term-limited Gov. Rick Scott.

“Just don’t be Trump’s mini-me, a simple rule,” Rick Wilson told the Capital Tiger Bay Club in a luncheon speech.

Wilson, a Tallahassee-based national Republican strategist who has become one of the most-outspoken critics of President Donald Trump, said most of the Republicans positioning themselves to run for governor next year “are pretty much onboard the Trump train to Trash Fire Mountain.”

Wilson, who has nearly three decades of political experience, said he understands the attraction of trying to appeal to Trump supporters in a Republican primary, but he warned it’s a “sugar high” that could have consequences in the general election.

“Their consultants are looking at that Trump base approval number and encouraging their guys to get an orange wig and rage tweet every morning at 6 a.m.,” Wilson said. “It’s a really bad look on most people. Trying to out-Trump Trump is the biggest sin in politics.”

Wilson said voters will “know you’re faking it.”

“Be real, guys, be yourself, be better than Trumpism,” Wilson said. “You’ll thank me in the general election, I promise you.”

In a nearly hour-long appearance before the political club, Wilson talked about his transition from a “rock-solid party guy,” who got his start with George H.W. Bush in the 1988 presidential campaign,” to a man who underwent a “political midlife change” in the 2016 election.

Wilson, who ended up supporting Evan McMullin’s independent bid for president, said Trump was not aligned with his political beliefs of limited government, individual liberty, an adherence to the Constitution and support for government restraint.

“I just couldn’t bring myself to pretend that Donald Trump was a conservative or that he was a Republican,” Wilson said. “He doesn’t believe in anything except himself, his celebrity and his brand. That’s not the party I signed up for.”

Wilson said the “real election” last year was “for the heart and soul” of his party.

“Republicans were hypnotized by a celebrity con man with a nationalist message, who was given virtually unlimited media attention,” he said.

With Trump’s recent equivocating on condemning racial violence in Charlottesville, Va., Wilson said “this is a bad time to be a Republican.”

“I have to call out not just Donald Trump right now but leaders of my party who will not call Donald Trump out by name for what he has done and said in the last few days to give aid and comfort to Nazis, Klansmen and racists,” Wilson said.

But he added he was “heartened” by remarks from Republican leaders, who unlike the president, directly condemned the actions by the nationalist groups in Virginia.

“They have recognized finally that this is a man who is off the rails,” Wilson said.

Wilson also warned that neither Republicans nor Democrats are “ready for the future.” He predicted that an accelerated cycle of change politically, socially and economically “will make the last 10 years look like the 1950s.”

He said voters are disengaging from both parties, reflected by the growing number of voters who claim no party affiliation.

“They increasingly sense that politics is disconnected from the things that affect their daily lives,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s outspokenness has drawn the ire of Trump supporters and the president, who has 36 million Twitter followers to Wilson’s 221,000 followers.

“One of the most amazing experiences you can have in your life is when Donald Trump tweets something terrible about you. Wow,” Wilson said. “You learn very quickly who your enemies and your friends are.”

Wilson said impeachment of Trump is not likely.

“Unless they find a note in Cyrillic from Trump, impeachment is a very high hill,” he said, alluding to investigations about alleged ties between Trump’s campaign and supporters to Russia.

But he raised the possibility that Trump might not seek re-election.

“I think Donald Trump is miserable. I think he hates this job,” he said.

Wilson also predicted that Trump, despite his controversies, will not change.

“It’s always the worst week. This is another worst week,” Wilson said. “I have two big theories. It never gets better. And everything Trump touches dies.”

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Rick Scott reluctant to question President Trump’s call for possible military action in Venezuela

As Venezuela’s economy continues to spiral downwards, Governor Rick Scott has been championing the opposition to President Nicholas Maduro.

Scott is expected to ask the Florida Cabinet on Wednesday for a resolution prohibiting the State Board of Administration, which acts as the state’s investment manager, from investing in companies or securities that are owned or controlled by the Venezuelan government.

President Donald Trump threatened military action in Venezuela last Friday night, sparking condemnation from around the region, including from countries which are usually some of Maduro’s harshest critics.

Maduro has seized on Trump’s comments to reaffirm long-standing accusations that Washington is preparing a military attack. He called for military exercises on Monday, urging the public to join in a two-day operation on August 26 and 27 involving both soldiers and civilians.

“I know that the president is very concerned,” Scott told Florida Politics Tuesday when asked if he had any concerns about Trump’s provocative comment.

“I’ve talked to him about Venezuela a number of times. I think doing the sanctions was right against everybody involved with Maduro,” said the Governor, speaking to reporters at the Florida Aquarium after holding a press conference touting the record number of tourists who visited Florida during the first half of 2017.

“It’s disgusting what’s happening down there,” Scott said.

Scott derided the Maduro government for placing opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez under house arrest after he was released from prison following a three year sentence for leading anti-government protests.

“Maduro needs to step down, he needs to release all political prisoners, we need democracy again, ” Scott said.

The Governor has not officially declared himself a candidate for U.S. Senate, but is expected to at some point in the next year. He’ll face Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. With the crisis in Venezuela exploding, both men have been competing with each other to show how devoted they are to the Venezuelan-American constituency in Florida.

Nelson has been seemingly trying to catch up to Scott in talking tough on the Maduro government. Last month he called the Trump administration to consider cutting off imports of Venezuelan oil. While limiting Venezuela’s oil imports to the U.S. is seen as a powerful weapon, it’s not clear how effective it would be, and is not something that even Marco Rubio has publicly called for (though he has said the issue should be on the table).

Nelson and Rubio introduced legislation in May to provide humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan people and increase sanctions on the Venezuelan officials responsible for the ongoing crisis there. Meanwhile, officials close to the governor note that he has been concerned about the Venezuelan people going back to 2014.

Scott brushed off a question about whether he supported Nelson’s request, saying that the Trump administration is looking at everything that they can do to promote democracy.

Over 120 people have been killed since anti-government protests began in April, driven by anger over shortages of food and medicine and Maduro’s creation of a legislative superbody that governments around the world say is dictatorial.

“I’ve talked to a variety of people, including some people who do charity care down there and they can’t even get charity care in there,” Scott decried.

The governor then got personal, saying that his daughter is pregnant with twins, and said he couldn’t imagine having a daughter or wife in a country that is enduring a shortage of medicine, which is the case currently in Venezuela.

“Can you imagine that knowing that your wife or daughter or somebody is going to have a baby and you know that unfortunately you’re in a country where they won’t even allow in the right medicine to take care of their citizens?” he asked. “That’s wrong.”

Oops? Donald Trump retweets critic saying ‘he’s a fascist’

President Donald Trump appears to have mistakenly retweeted a message from one of his critics saying “he’s a fascist.”

Trump deleted his retweet Tuesday after about five minutes, but not before the message sent to his 35 million followers racked up a big response.

Trump seems to have been trying to draw attention to a Fox & Friends article on a possible presidential pardon for former Phoenix-area Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of a crime for ignoring a U.S. court order to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.

A Twitter handle identified as “@MikeHolden42” tweeted to Trump “He’s a fascist, so not unusual.” The user suggested in subsequent tweets that he was calling Trump a fascist, not Arpaio.

Trump retweeted the message to his massive following, triggering an avalanche of replies. @MikeHolden42 responded: “I’m announcing my retirement from Twitter. I’ll never top this RT.” He later updated his description on Twitter as “Officially Endorsed by the President of the United States.”

On Tuesday, Trump also retweeted and deleted a cartoon showing a train labeled “Trump” running over a man with “CNN” covering his face Monday morning.

The retweets come after a national uproar over race-fueled clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia. It took two days of public equivocation and internal White House debate before the president condemned white supremacist groups by name on Monday, declaring “racism is evil.”

Late Monday, Trump had retweeted Jack Posobiec, a conservative Trump supporter who used social media to draw attention to “pizzagate,” an unfounded conspiracy theory that claims Democrats harbor child sex slaves at a pizza restaurant.

Posobiec’s tweet read: “Meanwhile: 39 shootings in Chicago this weekend, 9 deaths. No national media outrage. Why is that?”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

George Gainer takes a licking on social media

Social media reaction was hard and swift this weekend against state Sen. George Gainer, the Panama City Republican who filed legislation last session to remove liability for drivers who “unintentionally” hurt or kill protesters or others “obstruct(ing)” traffic.

On Saturday, Gainer tweeted, “If I do not love, I am nothing,” quoting Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.

That was in response to a “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, Virginia, where an alleged white nationalist drove his car into another car, which struck a crowd of counterprotesters, according to a New York Times report.

Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old Charlottesville paralegal, was killed; 19 others were injured. Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe later declared a state of emergency.

“Says the guy who wants to legalize murdering protesters with vehicles,” the first reply to Gainer on Twitter said. “Guess who I won’t be voting for next year,” said another.

“You have blood on your hands from the tragedy in Charlottesville. America will be better off when you no longer represent it,” said still another, followed by, “So how does the love go along with murdering protesters? Just asking.”

Gainer was not immediately available Monday morning, nor was state Rep. Jayer Williamson, the Pace Republican who filed an identical companion bill in the House. Both men were first elected last year.

The measures died in committees during the 2017 Legislative Session. A similar bill has not yet been filed for 2018.

Last session’s bill would have created a misdemeanor for anyone who “obstruct(s) or interfere(s) with … traffic on a public road, street, or highway during a protest or demonstration for which a public assembly permit or other applicable special event permit has not been issued by a county or municipality.”

The language at issue says a driver “who unintentionally causes injury or death to a person who obstructs or interferes with the regular flow of vehicular traffic” under the first section “is not liable for such injury or death.” That person would have had the legal “burden of proving that … (an) injury or death was not unintentional.”

Similar bills were filed in at least 18 states earlier this year, after the election of President Donald Trump, the Washington Post reported.

Why won’t Donald Trump condemn white nationalism?

Why doesn’t President Donald Trump just unequivocally condemn white supremacists?

It’s a jarring question to ask about an American president. But it’s also one made unavoidable by Trump’s delayed, blame-both-sides response to the violence that erupted Saturday when neo-Nazis, skinheads and members of the Ku Klux Klan protested in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump has faced such a moment before — one that would have certainly drawn swift, almost predictable condemnations from his recent predecessors, regardless of party. As a candidate and now as president, when racial tensions flared or fringe groups rallied around his message, Trump has shown uncharacteristic caution and a reluctance to distance himself from the hate.

At times, his approach has seemingly inflamed racial tensions in a deeply divided country while emboldening groups long in the shadows.

On Saturday, as Trump read slowly through a statement about the clashes that left dozens injured and one woman dead, he condemned hatred, bigotry and violence “on many sides.” The president was silent when journalists asked whether he rejected the support of nationalists’ groups.

That silence was cheered by the white supremacist website Daily Stormer: “When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”

Trump denies that he’s racist or sympathetic to such groups. Son-in-law Jared Kushner, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, and daughter Ivanka, who converted to Judaism, are among those who have defended the president against those charges.

Still, he has a history of engaging in high-profile, racially fraught battles.

Early in his career as a developer, Trump fought charges of bias against blacks seeking to rent at his family-owned apartment complexes. He long promoted the lie that the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama, was not born in the United States. As a candidate, he proposed temporarily banning Muslims from the United States. He retweeted a post from accounts that appeared to have ties to white nationalist groups. And he was slow to reject the endorsement of former KKK leader David Duke.

Some of the president’s friends and advisers have argued that Trump is simply refusing to bend to liberals’ desire for political correctness. A boastful, proudly disruptive politician, Trump often has been rewarded for saying impolite and impolitic things. Some supporters cheered him for being someone who said what they could not.

Democrats frequently assert that Trump sees a political advantage in courting the support of the far right. Indeed, he has benefited politically from the backing of media outlets such as Breitbart or InfoWars. They have consistently promoted Trump and torn down his opponents, sometimes with biased or inaccurate reports.

Charlottesville’s mayor, Democrat Mike Signer, said Sunday that Trump made a choice during his campaign to “go right to the gutter, to play on our worst prejudices.”

“I think you are seeing a direct line from what happened here this weekend to those choices,” Singer said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

White House senior adviser Steve Bannon ran Breitbart before joining Trump’s campaign, and several of the president’s other aides believe Bannon continues to have influence over the website. In “Devil’s Bargain,” a new book about his role in the Trump campaign, Bannon is quoted as saying that attempts by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to tie Trump to the alt-right and nationalists did not move voters.

“We polled the race stuff and it doesn’t matter,” Bannon said, according to the book.

But there here’s no reliable public polling on the scope of Trump’s support among those with white nationalist leanings or the percentage of the electorate they comprise. The reaction from Republicans following Trump’s statement Saturday suggests there may be greater political risks for the president in aligning himself with bigoted groups.

“The president needs to step up today and say what it is,” said Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who was one of several GOP lawmakers urging Trump to be more strident in calling out the nationalists and neo-Nazis that gathered in Charlottesville. Gardner said plainly: “It’s evil. It’s white nationalism.”

By Sunday, the White House was scrambling to try to clean up the president’s statement. The White House issued a statement saying the president does condemn “white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.”

The spokeswoman who issued the statement refused to be named. And the president himself remained silent.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump drawing criticism for not explicitly rebuking white supremacists

President Donald Trump is drawing criticism from Republicans and Democrats for not explicitly denouncing white supremacists in the aftermath of violent clashes in Virginia, with lawmakers saying he needs to take a public stand against groups that espouse racism and hate.

Trump, while on a working vacation at his New Jersey golf club, addressed the nation Saturday soon after a car plowed into a group of anti-racist counter-protesters in Charlottesville, a college town where neo-Nazis and white nationalists had assembled for march. The president did not single out any group, instead blaming “many sides” for the violence.

“Hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now,” he said. “We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and … true affection for each other.”

Trump condemned “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” He added: “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time.”

He did not answer questions from reporters about whether he rejected the support of white nationalists or whether he believed the car crash was an example of domestic terrorism. Aides who appeared on the Sunday news shows said the White House did believe those things, but many fellow Republicans demanded that Trump personally denounce the white supremacists.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., tweeted: “Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.”

Added Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.: “Nothing patriotic about #Nazis,the #KKK or #WhiteSupremacists It’s the direct opposite of what #America seeks to be.”

GOP Chris Christie of New Jersey, a staunch Trump supporter, wrote: “We reject the racism and violence of white nationalists like the ones acting out in Charlottesville. Everyone in leadership must speak out.”

On the Democrat side, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York said “of course we condemn ALL that hate stands for. Until @POTUS specifically condemns alt-right action in Charlottesville, he hasn’t done his job.”

The president’s only public statement early Sunday was a retweet saluting two Virginia state police officers killed in helicopter crash after being dispatched to monitor the Charlottesville clashes.

The previous day, Trump tweeted condolences to those officers soon after the helicopter crashed. His tweet sending condolences to the woman killed in the protests came more than five hours after the incident.

Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said Sunday that he considered the attack in Charlottesville to be terrorism:

“I certainly think anytime that you commit an attack against people to incite fear, it is terrorism,” McMaster told ABC’s “This Week.”

“It meets the definition of terrorism. But what this is, what you see here, is you see someone who is a criminal, who is committing a criminal act against fellow Americans.”

The president’s homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, defended the president’s statement by suggesting that some of the counter-protesters were violent too.

When pressed, he specifically condemned the racist groups. The president’s daughter and White House aide, Ivanka Trump, tweeted Sunday morning: “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.”

White nationalists had assembled in Charlottesville to vent their frustration against the city’s plans to take down a statue of Confederal Gen. Robert E. Lee. Counter-protesters massed in opposition. A few hours after violent encounters between the two groups, a car drove into a crowd of people peacefully protesting the rally. The driver was later taken into custody.

Alt-right leader Richard Spencer and former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke attended the demonstrations. Duke told reporters that the white nationalists were working to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”

Trump’s speech also drew praise from the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, which wrote: “Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. … No condemnation at all.”

The website had been promoting the Charlottesville demonstration as part of its “Summer of Hate” edition.

Mayor Michael Signer, a Democrat, said he was disgusted that the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed Trump for inflaming racial prejudices with his campaign last year.

“I’m not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president,” he said.

Trump, as a candidate, frequently came under scrutiny for being slow to offer his condemnation of white supremacists. His strongest denunciation of the movement has not come voluntarily, only when asked, and he occasionally trafficked in retweets of racist social media posts during his campaign. His chief strategist, Steve Bannon, once declared that his former news site, Breitbart, was “the platform for the alt-right.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump answers call of crisis with familiar bluster, spontaneity and norm-breaking risk that defined his political rise

A nuclear showdown. The world’s most unpredictable foe. A world on edge. What will the new president do?

Be Trump.

Faced with perhaps his gravest international crisis yet, President Donald Trump this week responded precisely as his some of supporters hoped and his critics long feared. The mix of plain-spoken bluster, spontaneity and norm-breaking risk that defined his political rise defined his approach to a round of fresh threats from nuclear North Korea. When Pyongyang punched, Trump counterpunched harder — much as he did on a debate stage flanked by political opponents.

But this was not a Florida debate stage or a low-stakes celebrity Twitter war of the sort Trump perfected before entering politics. It was a standoff over North Korea’s rapidly developing nuclear program, complete with trading threats of war and the safety of millions in the balance. Over the course of the week, Trump unleashed provocative rhetoric and dismissed the careful or precise diplomatic language favored by his predecessors.

“They should be very nervous,” Trump said of North Korea. “Because things will happen to them like they never thought possible, OK?

Still, Trump’s strategy was familiar. He tweeted regularly. He took it personally. He spoke off the cuff. He talked — a lot — holding a two-day blitz of press conferences, each yielding moments that immediately sparked chatter, confusion, criticism and attention.

On Friday, after striking a slightly toned-down message to North Korea, Trump offered that he would consider military action in Venezuela, where the president has consolidated power and sparked widespread international condemnation. In the course of a 12-minute exchange with journalists, the remark raised the prospect of the use of military force against two countries in two different hemispheres.

Trump’s pugnacious public talk is matched by his private conversations with aides and allies. Trump has told associates that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has disrespected him and the United States and that he believes the rogue nation will only respond to toughness and the threat of force, according to two people who, like others interviewed, requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.

Some aides were surprised when Trump declared Tuesday, soon after word spread that North Korea had made a nuclear breakthrough, that the isolated nation would face “fire and fury” if the threat continued. The president had not used those words in a conference call with advisers beforehand when discussing the matter.

He also told aides, including new chief of staff John Kelly, that he had no intention of softening his tone, according to two White House officials, who also demanded anonymity to discuss the conversations.

The president has gone out of his way to discuss the threat posed by North Korea, tweeting frequently and engaging reporters at length four times over two days in his golf club.

On Thursday, as he fielded questions from a small group of reporters, he ignored press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who repeatedly held up a hand-written sign that urged him to take just one final question. Instead, he frequently made eye contact with individual reporters to seek out their inquiries. He ended up talking for 30 minutes, much of it in ominous language about North Korea.

His plain-spoken tough talk, which is easily distilled into tweets and the ticker headlines that crawl across cable television, has frequently thrilled supporters.

“Trump is simply trying to communicate in vivid, clear language to a dictator not used to listening to anybody that they are facing the potential end of their regime,” said frequent Trump adviser Newt Gingrich. “I think that what he’s trying to do in the short run is to communicate with great intensity that we are serious.”

For others, Trump’s rhetoric only appeared to be escalating the crisis.

“Presidents have used tough language about adversaries,” said Julian Zelizer, history professor at Princeton University. “The difference is how unscripted this is … this is ad hoc and improvised, which most presidents have understood to be dangerous when nuclear weapons are involved.”

Trump dismissed such criticism on Friday evening, as he answered more questions from reporters, and issued more threats.

“My critics are only saying that because it’s me,” Trump said. “We have tens of millions of people in this country that are so happy with what I’m saying because they’re saying finally we have a president that’s sticking up for our nation and frankly sticking up for our friends and our allies.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Darryl Paulson: National Public Radio urges revolution

The 2016 presidential election divided America more than ever. Not only was the election relatively close in terms of the popular vote, but the popular vote winner actually ended up losing the electoral college vote and the presidency.

Instead of attempting to unite a badly divided America, as most presidents have attempted to do upon assuming office, Donald Trump continued to denigrate “crooked Hillary” and chastise Democrats for being sore losers. Many Trump critics immediately called for his impeachment on the grounds of Russian interference in the election and their belief that Trump was emotionally and mentally incompetent to be president.

Elections often unsettled the American public, but few have done so like the 2016 election. There was growing concern that the fabric of America was being destroyed and America was literally being pulled apart.

As we approached the 4th of July this year, when we celebrate America’s independence from Great Britain with the approval of the Declaration of Independence, thoughts of rebellion were in the air.

On July 4, National Public Radio (NPR) issued its call for an American revolution. At least, that is what many NPR listeners believed they were doing.

As they had done for many years on July 4, NPR featured the Declaration of Independence. In prior years, the Declaration was read in its entirety. In 2017, for the first time, NPR decided to convey the Declaration through modern social messaging. They posted the entire Declaration in 112 tweets.

The tweets unleashed a storm of protest from disgusted listeners who were shocked to hear taxpayer-funded NPR calling for a revolution. Many listeners thought NPR was trying to mobilize the anti-Trump forces to start a new revolution in order to change the government.

One listener tweeted that it was an “interesting way to condone the violence while trying to sound patriotic.” Another thought that NPR had been hacked and the tweets were part of a leftist assault on the Trump Administration.

Some listeners called for NPR to lose its government funding. One wrote, “this is why you’re going to get defended.” Many called the tweets “trash,” and others attacked the tweets as another example of “fake news.”

Over the next few days, news began to circulate about NPR’s “revolutionary tweets,” and many of those protesting the tweets realized that this was not part of an attempt to overthrow the government.

Just as Orson Welles’ 1938 CBS Radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” stunned and terrified his radio audience, the NPR 112 tweets of the Declaration of Independence stunned, terrified and angered many of NPR’s listeners July 4, 2017.

Three-quarters of a century had passed since “War of the Worlds” and the subject matter was different, but the results from both broadcasts were similar. People were so close-minded in their own views that they reacted to conflicting news emotionally and not rationally.

When one listener suggested that one of the individuals who had been duped by the tweets should take down her criticism of NPR, she refused. “If my stupidity spurs us to READ our Declaration of Independence then I don’t mind the comments. Worth the embarrassment.”

At least one person learned an important lesson.

I wonder how most Americans would respond tomorrow if they read in The New York Times or heard on FOX News that “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing,” or “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

Would the Times and FOX News be flooded with hate mail like NPR, or would people simply say Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence, was a wise man?

___

Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Beyond bluster, U.S., N. Korea in regular contact

Beyond the bluster, the Trump administration has been quietly engaged in back channel diplomacy with North Korea for several months, addressing Americans imprisoned in the communist country and deteriorating relations between the longtime foes, The Associated Press has learned.

It had been known the two sides had discussions to secure the June release of an American university student. But it wasn’t known until now that the contacts have continued, or that they have broached matters other than U.S. detainees.

People familiar with the contacts say the interactions have done nothing thus far to quell tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile advances, which are now fueling fears of military confrontation. But they say the behind-the-scenes discussions could still be a foundation for more serious negotiation, including on North Korea’s nuclear weapons, should President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un put aside the bellicose rhetoric of recent days and endorse a dialogue.

Trump refused to discuss the diplomatic contacts. “We don’t want to talk about progress, we don’t want to talk about back channels,” Trump told reporters Friday.

The diplomatic contacts are occurring regularly between Joseph Yun, the U.S. envoy for North Korea policy, and Pak Song Il, a senior North Korean diplomat at the country’s U.N. mission, according to U.S. officials and others briefed on the process. They weren’t authorized to discuss the confidential exchanges and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Officials call it the “New York channel.” Yun is the only U.S. diplomat in contact with any North Korean counterpart. The communications largely serve as a way to exchange messages, allowing Washington and Pyongyang to relay information.

Drowned out by the furor over Trump’s warning to North Korea of “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has expressed a willingness to entertain negotiations. His condition: Pyongyang stopping tests of missiles that can now potentially reach the U.S. mainland.

Tillerson has even hinted at an ongoing back channel. “We have other means of communication open to them, to certainly hear from them if they have a desire to want to talk,” he said at an Asian security meeting in the Philippines this week.

The interactions could point to a level of pragmatism in the Trump administration’s approach to the North Korean threat, despite the president’s dire warnings.

On Friday, he tweeted: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely.” But on Thursday, he said, “we’ll always consider negotiations,” even if they haven’t worked in the last quarter-century.

The contacts suggest Pyongyang, too, may be open to a negotiation even as it talks of launching missiles near the U.S. territory of Guam. The North regularly threatens nuclear strikes on the United States and its allies.

The State Department and the White House declined to comment on Yun’s diplomacy. A diplomat at North Korea’s U.N. mission only confirmed use of diplomatic channel up to the release of U.S. college student Otto Warmbier two months ago.

Trump, in some ways, has been more flexible in his approach to North Korea than President Barack Obama. While variations of the New York channel have been used on-and-off for years by past administrations, there were no discussions over the last seven months of Obama’s presidency after Pyongyang broke them off in anger over U.S. sanctions imposed on its leader, Kim. Obama made little effort to reopen lines of communication.

The contacts quickly restarted after Trump’s inauguration, other people familiar with the discussions say.

“Contrary to the public vitriol of the moment, the North Koreans were willing to reopen the New York channel following the election of President Trump and his administration signaled an openness to engage and ‘talk about talks,’” said Keith Luse, executive director of the National Committee on North Korea, a U.S.-based group that promotes U.S.-North Korean engagement.

“However, the massive trust deficit in Pyongyang and in Washington toward each other has impeded the confidence-building process necessary to have constructive dialogue,” he said.

The early U.S. focus was on securing the release of several Americans held in North Korea.

They included Warmbier, who was imprisoned for stealing a propaganda poster and only allowed to return to the U.S. in June — in an unconscious state. He died days later. Yun traveled on the widely publicized mission to Pyongyang to bring Warmbier home.

Despite outrage in the U.S. with Warmbier’s treatment and sharp condemnation by Trump, the U.S.-North Korean interactions in New York continued.

Yun and his counterpart have discussed the other Americans still being held. They include Kim Hak Song, a university employee detained in May accused of unspecified “hostile” acts; Tony Kim, a teacher at the same school, accused of trying to overthrow the government; and Kim Dong Chul, sentenced last year to a decade in prison with hard labor for supposed espionage.

But the American and North Korean diplomats also have discussed the overall U.S.-North Korean relationship. The two countries have no diplomatic ties and are still enemies, having only reached an armistice — not a peace treaty — to end the 1950-1953 Korean War. Twenty-eight thousand U.S. troops are still stationed in South Korea.

In its own convoluted way, North Korea has indicated openness to talks in recent weeks, even as it has accelerated the tempo of weapons tests.

On July 4, after the North test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that could potentially strike the continental U.S., leader Kim added a new caveat to his refusal to negotiate over its nukes or missiles. Instead of a blanket rejection, he ruled out such concessions “unless the U.S. hostile policy and nuclear threat to the DPRK are definitely terminated.”

That message has been repeated by other North Korean officials, without greater specification. Nor have they offered an indication as to whether Pyongyang would accept denuclearization as the goal of talks.

Still, advocates for diplomacy, including some voices in the U.S. government, view the addendum as a potential opening.

“North Korea is assessing its options,” said Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at the New America think tank who participated in unofficial talks with North Korean officials in Oslo in May, where Yun also met with the North Koreans. “They recognize that at some point they have to return to the table to address what’s becoming a crisis. That’s what they are weighing right now: the timing of engagement.”

Any negotiation would face huge skepticism in Washington given North Korea’s long record of broken promises. The last serious U.S.-North Korea negotiations collapsed in 2012 when Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket that derailed an agreement of a North Korean nuclear freeze in exchange for U.S. food aid.

North Korea’s weapons program has developed significantly since then. As a result, its price in any such negotiation is now likely to be far higher. At a minimum, Pyongyang would renew its long-standing demands for an end to joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises — which are set to resume this month — and an eventual peace treaty with Washington.

To date, the Trump administration has heavily concentrated its diplomatic energy on cranking up international pressure on North Korea’s government, in particular pressing China to lean on its wayward ally. Last weekend, the U.N. adopted its strongest economic sanctions on Pyongyang.

Trump has been widely accused of injecting a new element of unpredictability and even chaos into U.S. policy toward North Korea, especially with his tweets and proclamations this week. It’s unclear what effect they may have on the back-channel contacts being maintained by Yun.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons