Right before the New Year, the New York Times breathlessly reported that the drunken revelations of a former Trump campaign foreign policy aide to an Australian diplomat in May 2016 prompted the FBI to open an investigation into the campaign’s Russia ties.
The Times story has already been exposed as full of holes and contradictions. It is the latest indication that the mainstream media routinely hypes any bad news, real or imagined, for President Trump in the Russia probe.
Just as disturbing, those who disseminate and explain the news continue to lack a basic understanding of the context and nature of Trump’s unconventional political campaign and often assume that the chaos, lack of organization, and opportunism that existed is synonymous with nefariousness, conspiracy, or broader illegality.
As the country awaits the final verdict of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, other common misperceptions deserve closer examination.
Last week, President Trump presented his national security strategy to the country, and outlined a crucial distinction from his two predecessors.
“We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone,” Trump declared, “but we will champion [American] values without apology.”
While Trump is not interested in former President George W. Bush’s interventionism in the Middle East or promises of ending tyranny in the 21st century, he also rejects former President Barack Obama’s endless apologies to foreign audiences and penchant for “leading from behind.”
To many foreign policy commentators, the president’s foreign policy outlook indicates a total lack of interest in human rights. For Trump, “America First” means “America will lead again,” and that leadership is not value-neutral.
Against conventional wisdom, the Trump administration has revealed in its first year a willingness to advocate on behalf of human dignity, even if in a different fashion from previous administrations.
In the humidity of late summer, I walked into the master practitioner’s office in Hong Kong.
He was a distinguished doctor of Chinese medicine, who counted movie stars such as Jackie Chan, Mark Wahlberg, and others as former patients. He was also a well-respected martial arts master, whose lineage intertwined with that of the legendary Bruce Lee.
I was visiting from Washington, D.C., and was seeking martial arts instruction and medical treatment.
Back home, blaring news headlines provided daily reminders of China’s growing political and economic power, while talking heads and policy types regularly pontificated about a future in which China might displace U.S. global leadership.
Rising global influence was now China’s new bragging right. In the office of the master practitioner, however, a quieter commodity prevailed — traditional Chinese culture.
Former President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain, Senator Bob Corker and other Republican luminaries have publicly criticized President Donald Trump’s foreign policy in recent days.
Yet, long before Trump took over the national political conversation, the conservative foreign policy establishment had systematically betrayed conservative principles and abandoned intellectual rigor for ideological rigidity in foreign policy.
Many individuals and institutions participated, but one example of how a major conservative think tank went about the task shows the insidiousness of the betrayal and offers insight into the intellectual disorderliness that led to Trump’s rise.
It was the fall of 2005, and the Iraq War was raging. I had just graduated from Stanford Law School and given up a lucrative Wall Street law firm salary to spend a year as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
A few weeks into my fellowship, AEI issued what I perceived as a very unsubtle threat against me. I was told to stop conducting research on national sovereignty and international law and instead work on democratization in Asia. AEI understood that I was exploring opportunities in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, and if I did not listen they would make sure I did not succeed.
I had been a conservative my entire adult life. Never did I imagine that this venerable institution of conservative thought would threaten me for attempting to put conservative thoughts on paper, but it did.
Sovereignty is a concept that lies at the heart of President Trump’s “America First” agenda. Recently, it has emerged with greater force and clarity. Yet with a few exceptions, the policy establishment does not have the slightest clue what it means.
Most intellectual elites had no idea what the Trump political revolution of the 2016 election meant either. Some, including many Never Trumpers, have continued to pretend they can explain Trump to the masses with great authority, while others foam at the mouth at his every utterance and action.
Certainly, self-styled “smart people” are entitled to remain within their own bubbles and talk only to people who confirm their worldviews. For those who actually wish to understand the world better, the emergence of sovereignty as a more cogent governing concept in the Trump administration is a fascinating development.
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